Uruguay have won the Copa America more than any other team, a fine achievement given the immense competition they face from neighbouring countries as well as the disparity in terms of population and resources, particularly that of rivals Argentina and Brazil. Their latest title defence begins on Saturday evening as they take on Jamaica, a side that is not expected to make it past the group stage.
Winning the competition back in 2011 was just reward for Uruguay’s remarkable rise back to international football’s elite, and was an achievement that took them to as high as second in the world rankings just a year after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup. They may not be quite as strong now with what is an ageing group of players, but Oscar Tabarez’ men will still be among the contenders.
The absence of the suspended Luis Suarez is a major setback to their aspirations, so a lot of pressure will be on Paris St. Germain striker Edinson Cavani to provide them with the clinical edge in front of goal. At the back, the presence of Diego Godin will ensure they are well organised at the back, and the boundless energy of Arevalo Rios in midfield will make it difficult for their opponents.
Jamaica, who include Leicester City defender Wes Morgan in their ranks, will aim to frustrate, but appear to be lacking the necessary quality to compete in this group, which also includes 2011 runners-up Paraguay and favourites Argentina.
The beaten World Cup finalists are blessed with so many star individuals, but they may just feel a little pressure in their attempts to win a first major trophy since 1993. It has been a long time for team so perennially talented, so captain and star man Lionel Messi will be determined to add an international gong to the many he has a club level. His mercurial talents along with the support of Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez among others will surely be difficult to stop.
Aiming to put a spanner in the works will be the Argentinian Head Coach of Paraguay, Ramon Diaz. It is a nation that can certainly do with a lift after a depressing fall from grace since reaching the final four years ago despite not winning a match. Having achieved their best World Cup performance by reaching the quarter-finals in 2010, they finished bottom of South American qualifying for 2014 as the quality within their ranks dissipated. Roque Santa Cruz is still very much part of the furniture, but it would be a surprise if Paraguay were to cause serious problems to Argentina or indeed go far in this tournament.
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