A pandemic postponement, two declined guest invitations, a late change of location, possible team boycotts, and last-minute COVID-19 outbreaks.
It has been quite the adventure just to get to the starting point of Copa America 2021.
The 47th edition of CONMEBOL’s tournament, originally scheduled for last summer but delayed due to the worldwide impact of the coronavirus, is set to begin on Sunday. The focus will naturally be on the games and players, but the off-the-field stories that have been such a big part of the tumultuous lead-up to South America’s regional competition are bound to pop up.
Not only was the 2021 Copa America moved to Brazil this past May 31 after original hosts Argentina and Colombia both canceled due to health and political reasons, respectively, but some national teams considered not playing this summer over safety concerns at the start of June.
All 10 of CONMEBOL’s nations ultimately decided to take part, but Bolivia and Venezuela have already had COVID-19 outbreaks in their camps that have forced roster changes. The games will go on, though, and the Neymar-led Brazilians will aim to defend their 2019 crown in the second straight edition of the competition that will be played in their backyard.
The scene for the tournament may be fairly familiar for all the teams, with five stadiums across four cities serving as hosts, but the format is not. The competition has gone from being its usual three groups of four nations to two groups of five. Originally it was slated to be two groups of six, but guests Qatar and Japan pulled out due to scheduling conflicts following the year-long postponement.
That has left just the South America nations to square off in the sport’s oldest international competition this summer, but there should still be no shortage of excitement, drama, and top-level soccer as Brazil tries to fend off Lionel Messi and Argentina, a stacked Colombia, a balanced Uruguay, and the other CONMEBOL countries.
Here is a rundown of SBI’s preview coverage of the 2021 Copa America, including links to stories breaking down the two groups, the MLS players participating, and more: