Copa América 2021
South American football always seems to live on the edge of order and absolute chaos but the upcoming Copa América is looking as if it might be about to take things to whole other level, from countries passing the hosting duties like a hot potato and just a week till it all starts everything is still very much all up in the air, but should it go ahead, we’ve got you covered with our handy little guide.
We’ll take a look at the where and when, the key storylines and young players who will be hungry to make an impression, so without further ado, let's begin.
So what’s the background?
Unlike its European counterpart this year's Copa América will in fact be the 2021 Copa América, presumably because they did not already have warehouses full of branded merch ready to go.
Initially the tournament was to be co-hosted between Colombia and Argentina, the first time two countries were due to share hosting duties in the tournament's 105 year history.
Unfortunately, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez decided to announce a series of tax hikes in the middle of the worst humanitarian disaster in generations. The ensuing civil unrest, which boiled over at a Copa Libertadores clash between America de Cali of Colombia and Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, led the tournament to be transferred solely to Argentina.
Ultimately this would last just 10 days before a surge in Covid cases in Argentina threw the entire tournament into doubt once again. Prolific arsehole, Jiar Bolsonaro, offered the stadiums of Brazil up for hosting. Brazil, the country with the most COVID cases and deaths in South America. So why go ahead at all?
During the 2019 Copa América CONMEBOL brought in over 100 million dollars.
CONMEBOL managed to ramp up the absurdity to new heights when their official twitter account posted: “Conmebol thanks the president and his team, as well as the Brazilian Football Confederation for opening the doors of that country to what is today the safest sporting event in the world. South America will shine in Brazil with all its stars!”
While it has become tradition that two non South American teams enter, this year there will be none as both Australia and Qatar pulled out of the tournament meaning that the 2021 edition will have 10 teams rather than the usual 12
The tournaments official song is La gozadera (Copa America) by Gente de Zona - it’s a rehashing of a Cuban Reggaeton mega hit from a few years ago and sounds like the original if it was played through an iphone and re-recorded, at least from the promos thus far released on the internet.
So when is it (maybe) happening and how do I watch?
The tournament kicks off with Brazil against Venezuela on the 13th June and will run for just under a month with the final being played on the 11th July.
The BBC have secured the rights to the whole tournament so it will be available for free throughout however most of the tournament's games kick off either at 10pm or 1am, so it’s either one for the night owls or perhaps best just to catch up on Iplayer.
What to look out for?
- Could this be Leo Messi’s last chance of international glory? While he will expect to be playing at the 2022 World Cup, Messi will turn 34 during the Copa América and with a strong Argentina side this is shaping up to be his best chance to finally lift a major trophy for his country.
- Cavani and Suarez up front for Uruguay - two elder statesmen of the game who may have slowed over the years but are looking as sharp as ever in their club form. With Bentancur and Valverde of Juve and Real behind them they should be getting plenty of service and will be hoping to help their side to a record 16th Copa America triumph
- Defending champions Brazil have arguably the strongest side of the tournament. With Allison or Edeson to choose from in goal, a defence that includes an ageless Dani Alves, a midfield anchored by Casemiro and Fabinho and, as ever, a host of attacking talent.
- For the first time ever the tournament will feature a player born in Stoke. Blackburn striker Ben Brereton qualifies for Chile through his mother and, although yet to gain a cap, is travelling with the squad for the tournament - he does not speak Spanish.
Any young stars to look out for?
Like any major tournament the Copa America has the ability to make superstars of any youngsters who impress and these four are looking like they could be primed and ready to do just that.
Julian Alvarez 21 (Argentina)
Called up off the back of five goals scored in last year's Libertadores. If he can get into Argentina’s side expect him to thrive.
Moises Caicedo 19 (Ecuador)
Recently transferred to Brighton after an impressive two seasons at Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle, midfielder Caicedo will be expected to put in a shift in a weak Ecuadorian side.
Vinicius 20 (Brazil)
After a stop and start season at Real that many felt should have been his breakthrough year the undeniably talented Vinicius will be hoping to announce himself at what is now a home tournament.
Yeferson Soteldo 23 (Venezuela)
A stand out player at Santos over the last few seasons the diminutive Soteldo completed a move this year to Toronto FC of the MLS and is equally capable of drifting out of games or completely taking over. If the right Soteldo turns up Venezuela should not be underestimated.
The Copa America, if it even goes ahead, is looking like it could be a disaster. But perhaps in all the madness and uncertainty we’ll get some genuinely exhilarating football.
Right now the 2021 Copa America is looking a bit like one of those nights out where things look like they are about to fall apart as people bail on the plan, your venue cancels on you and several people are clearly already getting their excuses in order.
But then, sometimes, those whole mood changes and the night turns out to be absolutely belter - let’s just really, really hope this Copa América is one of those nights.
Words by Andy Gallagher