At the beginning of this tournament you would have been forgiven as seeing this match as formality for Brazil to win, especially if you knew little about South American football. However, as the tournament has progressed, events on and off the pitch have changed all of the Copa America predictions drastically, as suspensions and current form have levelled the playing field.
Brazil’s opening game saw the team claw back an early deficit and go on to win the match in injury time. Neymar scored the equaliser, created an audacious assist for the winner and picked up the man-of-the-match award in the process. Neymar seemed destined to make himself the key player of the tournament and re-establish Brazil as the kings of South American football.
This all changed in the second game as Neymar was red carded for a headset during an altercation, followed by a huge argument in the dressing room areas with officials that resulted in Neymar allegedly abusing the referee with insults and questioning his integrity. The result of this is that Neymar will miss the rest of the Copa America, thanks to a four game suspension.
Paraguay were put into the hardest group by far as they were paired with Argentina and Uruguay. After pulling back a two goal deficit against Argentina in their first match they are sure to be full of confidence. They managed to reach the final in 2011 and they are sure to feel confident that their style of high-energy and teamwork will break down Brazil.
Brazil are now left without their main attacking threat and most talismanic player. Brazil won their final group game without him but Neymar is sure to missed by the team. Brazil will have to put in a good performance to progress as Paraguay are sure to fight for every ball.
The last five years have seen an erosion of the legend of Brazilian football. Brazil are far from a spent force, however, they need to re-establish themselves as major competitors at this year’s tournament, or else run the the risk of being marginalised on the international stage. Many are betting on the Copa America 2015 being the platform that launches Brazil back to the top.
Brazil currently lie fifth in the FIFA world rankings, but the third and fourth positions are being held by Argentina and Colombia respectively. Going into a Copa tournament as only the third highest ranked team will be completely alien to the Brazilians, with a poor performance almost sure to see them fall down the rankings even further.
The Copa’s 2011 winners Uruguay are currently sitting in eighth place and if Uruguay win again then they may leap-frog Brazil. Considering that Brazil reigned over the tournament from 1993 – 2011, with few teams able to challenge them, they are currently entering into uncharted territory that will test the resolve of all of those involved in the national team.
Failing to make the 2011 Copa Final, losing to Mexico 2-1 in the Olympic final, and most painfully, being obliterated by Germany 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-final, when Brazil were hosts of the tournament and so had home advantage, has all had the combined effect of diminishing the legend of Brazilian football.
Brazil are now turning to their young starlets, such as Philippe Coutinho, who are hungry for success, to re-establish their pride on the international stage. After their humiliating defeat to Germany, Brazilian fans will at least want to prove they can still compete with the best.
Brazilian football is at a crossroads, and how the team performs in 2015 will determine their success in future years. Brazil have great players, such as Neymar, however, they must get results and silverware in order to be regarded as one of the best teams in the world.
Despite the fact that Argentina regularly produces the greatest players in world football, the country has not won a major trophy in over two decades, with their last success coming in 1993’s Copa America. 2015 is predicted to be a big year for Argentinian football, and they will be sure to focus everything on winning this year’s event.
After winning an historic treble with Barcelona, Lionel Messi will want to emulate his club success with his national team. Messi will want to be remembered along side the greats of Pele and Maradona, however, the greatness of these players was confirmed by their performances and achievements on the international stage.
Argentina were finalists at the 2014 World Cup, with Messi winning the player of the tournament, but everyone would have preferred to win the trophy instead. Maradona almost single handedly won the World Cup for Argentina, with Pele playing a crucial part in Brazil’s victories. Without having won trophies with your country, then it is hard to be considered the best of all time.
Messi is desperate for success with his country and Argentina are in a great position to gain victory in this year’s tournament. They have a very tough, organised and youthful defence, with the likes of Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Otamendi consistently putting in powerful performances for both club and country.
If Argentina can build on their World Cup Final appearance in 2014, then they certainly have the players in both defence and attack to become one of the major competitors in world football. This year’s tournament in the Americas is sure to be one of the best in recent years, as it will showcase some of the best teams in the world and Argentina can use it to prove they are still a great team.
The most highly anticipated fixture of the European football season kicks off on Saturday night in what has been labelled the battle of Madrid, as Atletico take on their super rich cross town rivals Real.
Atletico Madrid have been fantastic this season and have now brushed off their underdog status after beating both Real Madrid and Barcelona to the domestic La Liga crown one week ago. Despite spending considerably less than other top European clubs, Simeone’s men have proved to be an extremely determined and energetic lot and fully deserve their place in the final of European’s football most prestigious event.
Ancelotti’s side will no doubt still be kicking themselves for slipping up in the final few weeks to fall out of the championship race at the last hurdle but will be extremely determined to end their season on a high and return to Madrid with their 10th Champions League crown.
Expect an extremely tight encounter between two well balanced sides, however I reckon Atletico will have enough to down their eternal rivals to catapult themselves into the history books!
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