The most successful teams at Copa America 2016 will be the ones that have the most fun.
The soccer “Centenario” will be serious business, with 16 teams from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean vying for hemispheric supremacy this month in the United States. They don’t all have the same prospects of winning the tournament, but each will define success on their own terms. After all, happiness is relative to expectations.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few teams to watch at Copa America 2016.
The five-time world champion expects to win every tournament in which it competes. Brazil will be a favorite among neutrals and pack stadiums with fans new and old, but which “Selecao” will show up in the United States?
Will it be the one that suffered home humiliation at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, or the one that exited the 2015 Copa America in the quarterfinals? Or will Brazil coach Dunga put his team on track, build a winner and perhaps save his job?
We’ll see, but he’ll have to do it without Neymar, Brazil’s brightest star, and several others.
The United States
Team USA’s aim is a spot in the semifinals. Doing so will give U.S. soccer much-needed cache among stateside soccer fans of all stripes. Doing so in style could make Jurgen Klinsmann’s team the darling of the tournament.
“El Tri” will have both a huge following and high expectations for the tournament. If Mexico combines substance and style it can reach the final and announce itself as a contender to win future Copa Americas and World Cups.
Argentina hasn’t won a major tournament since 1993, and the trophy cabinet of captain Lionel Messi contains zero international winners’ medals. Anything short of victory will extend Argentina’s pain for at least another two years.
The 2015 Copa America winners were outstanding last year at home. Can they maintain that form in the global north and under new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Haiti’s the ultimate long-shot in Copa America 2016, as it was in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. If plays as well as it did last summer — it outplayed the United States in a group-stage loss en route to a spot in the quarterfinals — it will bring joy to its fans near and far and signal continuing growth on the world stage.
“Los Canaleros” have impressed in recent Gold Cups and might have won last year’s tournament if not for some ridiculous refereeing decisions in Mexico’s favor in the semifinals.
If Panama reaches the knockout rounds, presumably as a third-place finisher in Group D, it will consider Copa America 2016 a success and use that momentum to chase a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup; an even more incredible achievement.
Thumbnail photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images
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