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Copa America 2015 preview: South America's unpredictable continental championship

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Sometimes it's the best, sometimes it's frustrating, but it's never boring.

Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Welcome to Copa America, a tournament where nothing makes sense. In the last edition of the tournament, Paraguay got to the final without winning a single game. In 2007, Argentina ran rampant through everyone, with Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme at their absolute best, until getting utterly destroyed by an average Brazil team in the final. There is no indication that the 2015 edition of this tournament will be any less weird.

The format, if you're unfamiliar, features two invited teams. There are 10 members of CONMEBOL, which isn't a good number for a tournament, so they add two teams in order to make three groups of four. Mexico is a permanent invitee, alongside what is now a rotating cast. The other outsider used to be the United States until they sent an embarrassing C-team and got booted. Costa Rica filled their place last time around, and Jamaica will fill out the field this year.

CONMEBOL usually rotates the hosts of the tournament in alphabetical order, and Brazil was scheduled to host this time around. But since they had the 2013 Confederations Cup, 2014 World Cup and will host the 2016 Olympics, their FA decided this was one tournament too many. They've been skipped over and the beneficiaries are Chile, who will be one of the favorites to lift the trophy as hosts following their solid World Cup run.

Uruguay are the defending champions, but they're going to have quite a bit of trouble repeating this time around. Diego Forlan is four years older, no longer able to contribute, and Luis Suarez is suspended for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup. If they're going to challenge again, they'll need a superhuman effort from Edinson Cavani and for one of their young strikers to have a breakout tournament.

The biggest question heading into the tournament is one about change vs. continuity. Argentina has changed coaches, but their philosophy and personnel should remain largely the same under Gerardo Martino. Dunga, meanwhile, looks perfectly willing to drop a bomb on the Brazil squad. They're the two top teams, as usual -- but which approach is right?

Originally, there was a prevailing belief that this would be a bit of a throwaway tournament, with the big show to come next year at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. But now news has emerged that the very conception of that tournament is intrinsically linked with corruption and the ongoing FIFA scandal. There are questions about whether it will go forward, and what that means for the Copa America in the future. There might not be one next year, so this tournament needs to be taken seriously.


Group A preview
Group B preview
Group C preview
Tournament predictions
Why Copa America is a launching pad for global stars