After losing two finals in two years, Argentina are hoping to get lucky the third time around.
Defeats to Germany in 2014 and Chile in 2015 haven’t just sapped the Argentinian spirit, it’s also put an enormous strain on it’s players, especially those that play in Europe.
It’s the reason Neymar was pulled from Copa America and retained for the Olympics – having played near-continuos football since the start of the 2013 football season, players like Neymar and Lionel Messi need a rest.
Brazil have prioritised the Olympics over the Copa America, understandable given that they’ve won 4 out of the last six editions of the tournament, and they host the next one in 2019.
Neymar-less Brazil will still be a threat, but all eyes will be on Messi-led Argentina and their quest to overturn a wretched run of finals.
Apart from losing the 2014 / 2015 finals, Argentina have also lost the finals of the 2004 and 2007 Copa Americas (both to Brazil), plus failed to qualify for the semifinals in the 2011 Copa America that they hosted (losing to Uruguay on penalties in the quarter final).
It’s important enough that Messi has taken on an almost statesman-like role, talking about a potential return to Argentina at the end of his playing career, and an injury scare last week prompted national panic, although the star has recovered and should be fit for the tournament.
And there was the requisite political scandal as well, with suggestions that the Argentinian FA could potentially withdraw the national team from the tournament after judicial scrutiny over television revenue and alleged mismanagement of match broadcasting funds by the AFA.
However, Argentina will play in the Copa America, and with Neymar missing for Brazil, they will be the team to beat. Again.
Best Copa America 2016 Ad
How far will the hosts go?
Any goodwill Jurgen Klinsmann had built up amongst the fans eroded a fair while back, and despite being the hosts, there aren’t many expectations from a USMNT side that is more focused on building for the 2018 World Cup qualification rather than winning a tournament on home soil.
It’s not just Argentina and Brazil they have to contend with – it’s Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Uruguay as well.
If you’re watching the Euros…
Check out today’s Euro 2016 blog. And remember, Copa America uses penalty shootouts for knockout games (apart from the final, which features extra time). So don’t be surprised midway through the tournament when Argentina lose again in the semifinals after Messi gets injured in the first 15 minutes…
More Copa America 2016 Links
The tournament kicks off with the hosts US taking on Colombia on June 3rd.