Preview of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America tournamentsDate: June 11, 2019
By: Joseph Osei-Bonsu
When Bayana Bayana of South Africa took a shock first-half lead against highly anticipated Spain, you could be forgiven for thinking that this Women’s World Cup would be a tournament of surprises. But like most of the first-round games, the result eventually went to the favorites.
Argentina and Italy however managed a draw and an exhilarating late-win against the better Japan and Australia, respectively. Continuing the soccer festivities are the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa América which begin this weekend. Here’s all you need to know for the two continental America competitions.
The Confederation of North America, Central America and Caribbean Association Football are to be applauded for their decision to increase the participating teams from 12 to 16 in the Gold Cup. With the U.S., Jamaica and Costa Rica hosting the 15th edition of the competition, never in its history has the world taken a keener interest in the cup.
Chelsea’s new-signing and America’s Christian Pulisic, Jamaica’s Leon Bailey, Raúl Jiménez of Wolves and Mexico fame, and Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell are also a few of the reasons why there is such an excitement for the June 15 kickoff at the Rose Bowl in California.
Defending champions, USA, have what looks like an easy group on paper in Group D with Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and the debuting Guyana. But having lost back-to-back warm up games, confidence is not necessarily sky-high.
Potential Group C winner, Jamaica, will hope to inaugurate their first ever Gold Cup game at home with a victory against Honduras, at the Independence Park, Kingston. Curaçao and El Salvador will be physically tough opposition for them.
Bermuda will play its first ever Gold Cup match against Haiti on Sunday. Costa Rica will back themselves to beat Nicaragua and the other teams in Group B. Mexico are the favorites to lift the Gold Cup on July 7. They are also the firm favorites to top Group A, just above Canada. Martinique and Cuba, I fear, may not stand a chance in the group.
A Neymar-less Copa América in Brazil may not be what Brazilians would have liked to hear, this week. But his latest ankle injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Yellow Canaries and their experienced coach, Tite.
The rape allegations against the Brazilian star were fast becoming a distraction from what the national team does best: win! And that’s what the Yellow Canaries have been doing in preparation for the first game against Bolivia, on Friday. Brazil have historically done very well against Bolivia and this match may prove no different.
The other match between fellow Group A contenders, Peru and Venezuela, will be tighter though. Salomon Rondon will look to inspire Venezuela against Paolo Guerrero’s Peru.
The biggest game of this Copa América weekend is Argentina versus Colombia. A game which could well prove to be the decider of who wins Group B. Lionel Messi has publicly said that Argentina are not favorites for this 46th Copa América. But any team with Messi in it are always going to be considered favorites. Paraguay and invited debut team, Qatar, conclude Group B.
The final group of the 12-team tournament is made of record-winners Uruguay, title-holders Chile, Ecuador, and the other Asian invitee, Japan. Surely the Group of Death this year, but with Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez, Uruguay and Chile will hope to hope to qualify from Group C automatically.
The two best teams out of the third-placed teams in each group will also advance into the quarter final. Copa América concludes in Rio de Janeiro on July 7.
Joseph Osei-Bonsu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.