After a thrilling meeting in the 2015 Copa America final, Argentina and Chile will do battle in their very first Group D matchup.
It may be unfair to the two other teams participating in the group, but the fact remains that the Argentines and Chileans will be heavy favorites to advance to the final eight in June. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez between the two teams, it’s hard not to like their chances.
Bolivia’s final tune-up against the United States showed very little promise from the CONMEBOL side, and while they may not have been putting their best foot forward with the tournament looming, they’ll have to step their game up big time if they want to stun the rest of the group.
Panama is the lone CONCACAF nation in Group D, which could serve as a good or bad omen for Los Canaleros. The team managed to qualify for the competition by virtue of their playoff win against Cuba, however, their task against two of the world’s top sides will be heightened to a whole new level. Their third place finish at Gold Cup last summer was nothing to downplay, but again, facing Argentina and Chile presents an entirely different challenge.
Here’s a closer look at Group D:
COPA AMERICA GROUP D
PANAMA vs. BOLIVIA — 7 p.m.
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
ARGENTINA vs. CHILE — 10 p.m.
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
CHILE vs. BOLIVIA — 7 p.m.
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
ARGENTINA vs. PANAMA — 9:30 p.m.
Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
CHILE vs. PANAMA — 8 p.m.
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ARGENTINA vs. BOLIVIA — 10 p.m.
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Javier Mascherano
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Argentina boasts the second-most Copa America/South American Championship titles in the competition’s history (14), however La Albiceleste haven’t hoisted the trophy since 1993. Three second-place finishes in their last four Copa America appearances will have them hungry.
OUTLOOK: It all starts with Lionel Messi. While Argentina is undoubtedly among the top soccer nations in the world, everything that the team does is predicated on Messi’s influence and success. In addition to the Barcelona talisman, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi are all more than capable attackers that will keep defenses on their toes. The squad’s backline could very well be their biggest weakness, with only three players holding more than 10 caps with Argentina, however, this team should have no difficulties advancing to the quarterfinals and beyond. Their biggest target will be fellow group D opponent Chile.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Juan Carlos Arce, Yasmani Duk, Jhasmani Campos, Romel Quinonez
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Bolivia’s lone title in the competition came all the way back in 1963. While making it beyond the group stage in 2015, the team likely won’t be so lucky with two of South America’s best standing in their way.
OUTLOOK: With Argentina and Chile the heavy favorites to advance out of Group D, all Bolivia can do is hope to play spoiler. The tournament could serve as a nice experience for player like New York Cosmos attacker Yasmani Duk, however, the team’s chances of succeeding with be quite low.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Eduardo Vargas, Gary Medel
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Chile’s first win in the Copa America came a year ago, after a thrilling penalty kick victory against Argentina. While the Chileans have had plenty success advancing past the group stage in the past, they’ll be looking for their second straight triumph in the U.S.
As the reigning Copa America holders, Chile will have a target on their backs, despite some saying that the competition won’t be taken seriously. Being paired with Argentina will only make that target greater. Although both sides will be expected to advance out of Group D, Chile must be wary of a potential meeting with La Albiceleste down the road in the tournament. There’s no question players like Vidal and Sanchez can again carry this team to a title, but that will all depend on how the draw plays out in the knockout phase.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Blas Perez, Luis Tejada, Alberto Quintero, Jaime Penedo
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: This summer marks the first time that Panama has entered a Copa America, and while the feat will be historic, the team’s run likely won’t last more than their allotted three games.
OUTLOOK: Panama’s rise within CONCACAF over recent years has been noted, particularly after their fourth-place finish at last summer’s Gold Cup. However, this tournament provides a much more vigorous test for the Panamanians. While Luis Tejada and Blas Perez, the country’s all-time leading goalscorers, have found success against North American opposition in their respective careers, their opponents at Copa America will be significantly more threatening.
How do you see Group D shaping up? Can either Bolivia or Panama overthrow Argentina and Chile?
Share your thoughts below.