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Copa America Group A preview

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The hosts are expected to cruise through.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images


If you enjoyed Chile at the World Cup, you're in for a treat, because this team is likely to be more of the same. All of your favorites are back, and they haven't magically sprouted any new central defenders. They'll be rolling with 5'9 converted fullbacks and midfielders in the center again, and it's going to be glorious. Jorge Sampaoli is opting to play his best 11 players no matter what, and it's hard to argue with the results.

Sampaoli has experimented with back three and four formations in post-World Cup friendlies, and we'll probably get to see them use both in this tournament. Gary Medel will be one of the team's most important players at the heart of the defense either way, and Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will need to be impeccable when it comes to claiming balls in the air.

Going forward, Chile have plenty of firepower. Alexis Sanchez is their headline player up top, Arturo Vidal supports him, and they're undoubtedly two of the top players in this tournament. Their supporting cast isn't necessarily world class, but they're experienced, and this team has chemistry. This team has been together since Sampaoli took over, and it's mostly comprised of guys in their mid-to-late-20s. They're a cohesive unit, and they're a team of guys in their primes.

Star: Arturo Vidal

Even though he had to play through an injury at the World Cup, 75 percent of Vidal was still fantastic for Chile in Brazil. Once again, he'll come into a tournament less than 100 percent -- he just played in the Champions League final. But in this case, Vidal just needs a brief rest; he's not injured. Don't be surprised if Chile sit him in their opener against Ecuador to make sure he's fresh for the rest of the tournament.

Expectations: Anything short of an appearance in the final will be a disappointment for La Roja. They're the best team in their group, and if they win it, Brazil and Argentina will be on the other side of the bracket. There's no shame in losing to one of them in the final, but they'll be a bit disappointed if Colombia trip them up in the semi.

Expected Lineup (4-3-1-2): Claudio Bravo; Jean Beausejour, Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla; Felipe Gutiérrez, Marcelo Diaz, Charles Aranguiz; Arturo Vidal; Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas


This is not Real Mexico, but rather Faux Mexico. It's not a version of El Tri that's going to get their invite revoked a la the United States in 2007, but this isn't a great team. Their warm-up friendlies against Peru and Brazil indicate that they're not ready to make a deep run in this tournament, but that's OK.

Miguel Herrera isn't necessarily trying to win the Copa America. He's trying to evaluate a wide range of players ahead of World Cup qualifying. His A-team is going to Gold Cup, but inevitably, a handful of these players will impress while a handful of players on that team do not, and Herrera will have good information on a very deep pool going forward.

This isn't just a team of youngsters and fringe players, though. Goalkeeper Jesús Corona, defender Rafa Marquez and forward Matias Vuoso are here for some veteran leadership, even though they're highly unlikely to feature in The Hex come 2017.

Star: Tecatito Corona

The one player on this team who has a chance to star for Mexico, cement his place in future teams and perhaps win a transfer to a club in a big league is FC Twente's Jesús Manuel Corona, better known as Tecatito. He usually plays as a winger at club level, but in Herrera's unconventional 3-5-2, he's likely to be one of two central midfielders that has some freedom to get forward, drift wide and generally do whatever he wants. He's really tricky, he has a nose for goal, and Mexico will need him to be their spark.

Expectations: There's enough talent here for El Tri to cause an upset or two, but anything beyond a trip to the quarterfinals would be a shock.

Expected lineup (3-5-2): Jesus Corona; Julio Dominguez, Rafa Marquez, Hugo Ayala; Efrain Velarde, Tecatito, Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes; Raul Jimenez, Eduardo Herrera


If you've seen Ecuador play once, you've seen them a million times. They play a rigid 4-4-2 with a couple of defensive-minded midfielders, pacey wingers and talented forwards. They're average defensively. They're average, if static, going forward. Their formula keeps them competitive, but they never seriously challenge for honors.

While they might be the most boring team in the world to talk and write about, they're certainly not bad to watch at all. Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero are extremely entertaining, and prone to the odd wondergoal. Both had inconsistent, but ultimately solid first seasons in the English Premier League and will be the stars of this team.

Sadly, there will be no Antonio Valencia in this team. He's injured and has to sit out. His direct replacement is Renato Ibarra of Vitesse, though there are some youngsters breathing down his neck.

Expectations: A second-place finish in the group seems likely, but then a quarterfinal against (probably) Colombia looms. They won't be expected to win that.

Star: Enner Valencia

The absence of Tony V and Ecuador's most experienced central midfielders might mean that Valencia has to create his own shot a bit more often than usual, but he's certainly up to the challenge. However, he was more a scorer of great goals than a great scorer of goals at West Ham this year.

Expected Lineup (4-4-2): Alexander Domínguez; Walter Ayovi, Gabriel Achilier, Frickson Erazo, Juan Carlos Paredes; Jefferson Montero, Osbaldo Lastra, Christian Noboa, Renato Ibarra; Miller Bolaños, Enner Valencia


Bolivia are a team all about their home-field advantage. When they're at their stadiums, at altitude, they can beat anyone in the world. When they're on a neutral site or away, they're thoroughly unimpressive. Despite their pulling off regular decent results in World Cup qualifying, they haven't won a game at Copa America since 1997 -- when they hosted the tournament.

This is a team relying on veteran players, most of whom ply their trade domestically, but there are signs of potential changes. The 21-year-old Danny Bejarano of Greek side Panetolikos and 18-year-old Sebastián Gamarra of AC Milan's youth team could get their chances to shine in this tournament and usher in a new era of Bolivian football.

Expectations: They should be satisfied with getting a point from any of their three games.

Star: Marcelo Moreno

Maybe the youngsters are coming, but Moreno is still Bolivia's top player. The experienced striker, currently playing in China, is a great finisher who's had a couple of excellent recent seasons in the Brasileirao.

Expected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romel Quiñónez; Leonel Morales, Ronald Raldes, Ronald Eguino, Edemir Rodríguez; Alejandro Chumacero, Danny Bejarano; Damián Lizio, Pablo Escobar, Martin Smedberg-Dalence; Marcelo Moreno


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