The 46th version of the Copa America, soccer’s oldest continental competitors, kicks off Friday night time in Brazil. Beneath, we look at the marquee storylines that may outline the event over the following month, breaking down what – and who – you must know earlier than the motion begins.

Who will step up for Brazil?

Seeking to seize the South American crown for the primary time since 2007 – and ninth time general – host nation Brazil goes into the event with out Neymar, who ruptured an ankle ligament in a pleasant match earlier this month.

The 27-year-old, who days previous to the damage was accused of raping a girl in Paris, has dominated the discourse within the buildup to the competitors.

As soon as the opening whistle blows Friday night time towards Bolivia, although, the remainder of Brazil’s squad will assume the highlight. Supervisor Tite, beneath intense strain to ship success on the heels of current disappointment in main occasions, will look to Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Richarlison, and David Neres to make Neymar’s absence a moot level.

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The Ajax winger, specifically, appears to be like prone to assume the function that the Paris Saint-Germain ahead has vacated on the left wing.

“We’re nonetheless very sturdy,” midfielder Casemiro stated when requested in regards to the remaining squad members.

Now’s the time to indicate it.

Brazilian followers, as is at all times the case, anticipate nothing lower than a title to mark the 100-year anniversary of their nation’s first Copa America triumph. That the Selecao have received every of the earlier 4 tournaments staged on dwelling soil solely provides to that expectation.

“Whatever the competitors we’re in, Brazil are favorites and should win,” Casemiro added forward of the opener in Sao Paulo.

Will Messi lastly get some assist?

The central query by no means appears to vary for Argentina.

Regardless of being blessed with the best participant on the planet, the Albiceleste have constantly failed to search out an ecosystem during which he can thrive. The expertise, particularly in attacking areas, is undeniably there: Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, and Paulo Dybala, amongst others, are stars in their very own proper.

However as an alternative of putting the proper stability and having these complementary items assist Messi, Argentina has usually lacked concord on the pitch, with Messi being requested to hold the staff on his again.

It practically labored. Thrice.

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However a loss within the 2014 World Cup ultimate, sandwiched between successive defeats to Chile within the showpiece match of the 2 earlier Copa America tournaments, has Messi working out of time to win his first main worldwide trophy. The 31-year-old does not appear overly enthused about his nation’s probabilities of ending a drought that dates again to 1993.

“We aren’t candidates like different instances,” Messi not too long ago instructed TyC Sports activities, by way of FOX Sports activities. “We’ll go along with the identical desires and pleasure as at all times, however the actuality is that Argentina goes by way of a technique of change.”

Supervisor Lionel Scaloni has tried to reinvigorate the aged squad that was dispatched with ease on the World Cup final summer season by bringing in a handful of younger gamers who must be given a possibility to flourish alongside Messi. Maybe the 2020 Copa America, then – which Argentina is co-hosting with Colombia – provides a greater likelihood for the diminutive magician to realize the worldwide success he is so determined for?

Possibly. However given his historical past with the nationwide program, his presence on that staff is much from assured.

Finish of an period for Chile?

All of the previous warhorses are there as soon as once more for Chile.

You recognize the names by now: Alexis Sanchez; Arturo Vidal; Eduardo Vargas; Gary Medel; Mauricio Isla; Charles Aranguiz; Jean Beausejour. They’re the identical ones Chile has been rolling out at each main event for the previous decade – till, in fact, La Roja missed the World Cup final summer season.

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The 2-time reigning Copa America champion arrives in Brazil on the definitive finish of an period. Of that aforementioned crop, Vargas is the one participant beneath 30 years previous. He is 29, and his 30th birthday is simply months away.

No participant higher embodies the decline of Chile’s golden period than Sanchez, who’s coming off a pitiful Premier League marketing campaign during which he scored one aim in 20 appearances with Manchester United.

As soon as probably the most rousing gamers to observe in world soccer because of his mix of talent, playmaking potential, and breathless depth, Sanchez was topped the highest participant on the 2016 Copa America.

He is a husk of that now.

If Chile harbors any hope of changing into the primary staff to three-peat within the fashionable period of the event, Sanchez, and all of his previous working mates, have to conjure up one thing actually particular. Crazier issues have occurred, in fact, however it appears terribly unlikely.

Simply how wholesome is Luis Suarez?

Uruguay has completed an admirable job producing some actually thrilling younger expertise of late. Lucas Torreira, Maxi Gomez, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Federico Valverde might be linchpins for La Celeste for the foreseeable future.

However veteran bench boss Oscar Tabarez will once more be counting on his stalwarts this summer season. Chief amongst a bunch that has supplied roughly a decade of service is Luis Suarez, who’s coming off late-season arthroscopic knee surgical procedure. The 32-year-old striker, who discovered the web 21 instances in league play for Barcelona this previous marketing campaign, got here off the bench in Uruguay’s most up-to-date pleasant, however for somebody who already appeared to be declining at varied factors over the previous 12 months, something lower than 100 p.c well being may see his impression take a severe nosedive.

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The long run is vivid, however Tabarez wants his nation’s all-time main scorer at his greatest to ensure that Uruguay to seize a record-extending 16th Copa America title.

What ought to we anticipate from the visitor groups?

With simply 10 nations making up the South American confederation, CONMEBOL has lengthy invited different international locations to partake within the Copa America to be able to spherical out the sector. For the reason that 1993 version, visitor sides have helped standardize the event and make the format extra digestible.

Sometimes, CONCACAF receives that invitation.

Mexico, for instance, had been ever-present on the South American championship since making its debut 26 years in the past in Ecuador. However with this summer season’s competitors working concurrent to the Gold Cup, the Mexicans and the US, who each featured in 2016, could not settle for the decision.

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As a substitute, these two visitor slots went to Japan and Qatar, who met within the Asian Cup ultimate in February. The latter, in a surprising upset – and maybe a sign of intent forward of the 2022 World Cup the nation is internet hosting – received the title.

Whereas the Qataris might be hard-pressed to duplicate that success, do not be stunned in the event that they make life tough on their South American friends. The identical goes for Japan. The 2 Asian sides bought terribly unfortunate with the group stage draw – Qatar will meet Argentina, Colombia, and Paraguay, whereas Japan will get Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay – however on the very least, they will be aggressive.

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