Copa America 2021 Preview: Group B (Brazil leads the pack)

Copa America 2021 Preview: Group B (Brazil leads the pack)

Copa America 2021

Copa America 2021 Preview: Group B (Brazil leads the pack)

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Brazil has been red-hot in World Cup Qualifying, boasts talent at practically every position, and is returning home this summer to defend its continental crown.

Things might be good right now, but the pressure is about to ramp up.

Brazil is set to begin its Copa America title defense on Sunday after winning the previous edition in 2019, but expectations are sky high given the state of the team. La Verde-amarela has gotten off to a perfect 6-0 start in qualifying, and the fact that CONMEBOL’s competition was moved on short notice back to its homeland for the second straight tournament will only add to the belief that Neymar and Co. should hoist the 10th regional trophy in the heavyweight’s history.

The first test will be navigating through Group B. Brazil will compete with a star-studded Colombia that can threaten for the top spot, a young and exciting Ecuador, 2019 runner-up Peru, and a talented Venezuela side in a bit of limbo in a newly-formatted opening phase of the tournament.

Here is an in-depth look at Group B in the 2021 Copa America, including the schedule of games, the stars to keep track of, and the players that could enjoy breakout tournaments:


GROUP B

June 13- Brazil vs. Venezuela (FOX, TUDN), 5 p.m.

June 13- Colombia vs. Ecuador (FS2, TUDN), 8 p.m.

June 17- Colombia vs. Venezuela (FS1, TUDN), 5 p.m.

June 17- Brazil vs. Peru (FS1, TUDN), 8 p.m.

June 20- Venezuela vs. Ecuador (FOX, TUDN), 5 p.m.

June 20- Colombia vs. Peru (FS1), 8 p.m.

June 23- Ecuador vs. Peru (FS1), 5 p.m.

June 23- Brazil vs. Colombia (FS1), 8 p.m.


BRAZIL


HEAD COACH

Tite

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Neymar, Richarlison, Everton, Casemiro

NAME TO LEARN

Lucas Paqueta. The elegant attacking midfielder is another talent that has emerged from Brazil’s seemingly never-ending pipeline of quality. Paqueta has the ability to both score and create, as was on full display this past season in his first campaign with Lyon in Ligue 1. The 23-year-old attacker also has Copa America experience, so this summer could be his breakout showing.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras)

Defenders: Danilo (Juventus), Emerson (Real Betis), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (PSG), Eder Militao (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Fred (Manchester United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Lucas Paqueta (Olympique Lyon)

Forwards: Neymar (PSG), Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid), Everton (Benfica), Richarlison (Everton), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo)

OUTLOOK

Brazil is the favorite to win the tournament for a second straight time and 10th overall. La Verde-amarela is the best-oiled machine in South America right now given its perfect start to World Cup Qualifying and overall form since Tite took over. What’s more, the team has the added benefit of playing at home, though no fans will be allowed at the start. Neymar will of course have to do plenty of the heavy lifting if Brazil is to repeat as champions, but he should have plenty of help on this deep and balanced squad.


COLOMBIA


HEAD COACH

Reinaldo Rueda

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Duvan Zapata, Luis Muriel, Juan Cuadrado, Yerry Mina

NAME TO LEARN

Luis Diaz. Possessing nimble feet and slithering dribbling moves, the skillful attacker could turn plenty of heads this summer as Colombia’s starting left winger. Diaz, 24, is not the biggest goal-scoring threat, but he is capable of terrorizing defenders out wide and the flare he boasts is more than easy on the eyes.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Napoli), Camilo Vargas (Atlas), Aldair Quintana (Atletico Nacional)

Defenders: Carlos Cuesta Figueroa (Genk), Daniel Muñoz Mejia (Genk), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), John Lucumi (Genk), Yerry Mina (Everton), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Stefan Medina (Monterrey), William Tesillo (Club Leon).

Midfielders: Baldomero Perlaza (Atletico Nacional), Edwin Cardona (Boca Juniors), Gustavo Cuellar (Al Hilal), Jaminton Campaz (Deportes Tolima), Juan Ferney Otero (Santos Laguna), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Matheus Uribe (Porto), Sebastian Perez (Boavista), Wilmar Barrios (Zenit), Yairo Moreno (Pachuca), Yimmy Chara (Portland Timbers), Luis Diaz (Porto)

Forwards: Alfredo Morelos (Rangers), Duvan Zapata (Atalanta), Luis Muriel (Atalanta), Miguel Borja (Junior), Rafael Santos Borre (River Plate)

OUTLOOK

Colombia’s current generation has yet to win silverware despite all its talent, but that could change this summer if all the pieces fall into place. Quality and depth are in abundance for Los Cafeteros, so much so that the absence of star playmaker James Rodriguez is not all that devastating to a potent attack that has the likes of Duvan Zapata, Luis Muriel, and Juan Cuadrado. If new head coach Reinaldo Rueda can find the right balance within the team and get the most out of the big-time players, Colombia should prove a serious contender.


ECUADOR


HEAD COACH

Gustavo Alfaro

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Enner Valencia, Christian Noboa, Alexander Dominguez, Angel Mena

NAME TO LEARN

Pervis Estupiñan. An athletic and attack-minded left back that gets forward well, Estupiñan is one of Ecuador’s most promising talents right now. The 23-year-old Villarreal player is still new to the international stage and this will be the first tournament with his country, but if he can overcome that lack of experience with the tools he has then he just might introduce himself as one of the region’s best newcomers.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Alexander Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Pedro Ortiz (Emelec), Hernan Galindez (Universidad Catolica)

Defenders: Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders), Robert Arboleda (Sao Paulo), Felix Torres (Santos Laguna), Pervis Estupiñan (Villarreal), Angel Preciado (Genk), Mario Pineda (Barcelona SC), Diego Palacios (Los Angeles FC), Luis Leon (Barcelona SC), Piero Hincapie (Talleres)

Midfielders: Alan Franco (Atletico Mineiro), Jehgson Mendez (Orlando City), Christian Noboa (PFC Sochi), Jose Carabali (Universidad Catolica), Moises Caicedo (Brighton), Angel Mena (Leon), Gonzalo Plata (Sporting CP), Dixon Arroyo (Emelec), Damian Diaz (Barcelona SC), Ayrton Preciado (Santos Laguna)

Forwards:  Fidel Martinez (Tijuana), Jordy Caicedo (CSKA Sofia), Leonardo Campana (Famalicao), Enner Valencia (Fenerbahce), Michael Estrada (Toluca), Jose Hurtado (Independiente del Valle)

OUTLOOK

Ecuador is a team in transition, but the influx of youth has not stopped the side from making noise in World Cup Qualifying. The hope from Gustavo Alfaro and his squad is that the new energy and ideas that have been injected into the group can translate over into tournament play, where games come in rapid succession. La Tricolor does have some veteran players that can help lead the way, including forward Enner Valencia and midfielder Christian Noboa, as it aims to return to the knockout phases after missing out in 2019.


PERU


HEAD COACH

Ricardo Gareca

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Christian Cueva, Andre Carrillo, Yoshimar Yotun, Renato Tapia

NAME TO LEARN

Gianluca Lapadula. Far from a young up-and-comer, the 31-year-old striker who was born in Italy only just started playing for Peru last November after filing his paperwork to represent his mother’s native land. Lapadula has not wasted time making an impact, though, with a deep commitment to the cause and strong tactical understanding in his first four caps. He is fresh off a two-assist outing, too, and is poised to be the starting forward given the absence of first-choice option Paolo Guerrero.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Orlando City), Carlos Caceda (Melgar), Jose Carvallo (Universitario)

Defenders: Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Abram (Velez Sarsfield), Jhilmar Lora (Sporting Cristal), Christian Ramos (Club UCV), Anderson Santamaría (Atlas), Alexander Callens (New York City FC), Miguel Araujo (FC Emmen), Miguel Trauco (St. Etiene), Marcos Lopez (San Jose Earthquakes), Renzo Garces (Club UCV)

Midfielders: Martin Tavara (Sporting Cristal), Sergio Peña (FC Emmen), Christian Cueva (Al-Fateh), Wilder Cartagena (Godoy Cruz), Renato Tapia (Celta de Vigo), Andre Carrillo (Al Hilal FC), Yoshimar Yotun (Cruz Azul), Alexis Arias (Melgar), Raziel Garcia (Cienciano)

Forwards: Luis Iberico (Melgar), Alex Valera (Universitario), Gianluca Lapadula (Benevento), Santiago Ormeño (Club Leon)

OUTLOOK

Peru has finished in at least third place in three of the last four editions of the tournament, including a runner-up showing in 2019, but getting that far again will be a tall task. La Blanquirroja is missing top players Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan, and will need Christian Cueva, Andre Carrillo, and others to step up as a result. Long-time manager Ricardo Gareca has shown in the past that he can get the most out of Peru, but he wants to look at some other faces so just making it out of the group is probably the goal.


VENEZUELA


HEAD COACH

Jose Peseiro

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Josef Martinez, Tomas Rincon, Yeferson Soteldo, Wuilker Fariñez

NAME TO LEARN

Cristian Casseres Jr. New York Red Bulls fans might already be familiar with the industrious two-way central midfielder, but the youngster is still cutting his teeth on the international scene. The 21-year-old Casseres Jr is capable of both initiating and breaking up attacks, as has been evident this MLS season, and should have chances to add to his six caps and strengthen his standing during the upcoming stretch.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Joel Graterol (America de Cali), Wuilker Fariñez (RC Lens), Rafael Romo (OH Leuven)

Defenders: Roberto Rosales (Leganes), Alexander Gonzalez (Malaga CF), Ronald Hernandez (Atlanta United), Jhon Chancellor (Brescia), Nahuel Ferraresi (Moreirense), Adrian Martinez (Deportivo La Guaira), Mikel Villanueva (CD Santa Clara), Yohan Cumana (Deportivo La Guaira), Luis Mago (Universidad de Chile)

Midfielders: Tomas Rincon (Torino), Yangel Herrera (Manchester City), Junior Moreno (D.C. United), Cristian Casseres (New York Red Bull), Edson Castillo (Caracas FC), Bernaldo Manzano (Deportivo Lara), Jose Martínez (Philadelphia Union), Romulo Otero (Corinthians), Jefferson Savarino (Atletico Mineiro), Richard Celis (Caracas FC), Jhon Murillo (CD Tondela), Yeferson Soteldo (Toronto FC).

Forwards: Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Fernando Aristeguieta (Mazatlan), Sergio Cordova (Arminia Bielefeld), Jhonder Cadiz (Nashville SC)

OUTLOOK

Venezuela has just had a COVID-19 spread in camp, and it remains unclear just how big of an impact that will have on the roster. Star striker Salomon Rondon was already ruled out via injury, but losing more players, including potential starters, would really test the depth of Jose Peseiro’s team. There is enough talent in La Vinotinto to secure passage to the quarterfinals, especially with goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez and forward Josef Martinez on the squad, but this latest development makes things a whole lot tougher.

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