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Copa America predictions

Who's going through, the winners and the best players.

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Jack: Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia; Ecuador and Paraguay as best third-placed sides.

Group A looks likely to be the tightest on paper; Chile are good but still not quite as good as other teams in the tournament, while Bolivia should be the whipping boys. That should mean third place picks up enough points to progress. In Group B, Paraguay should be able to beat Jamaica and could take something from a relatively weak Uruguay team, which should be enough to get them through -- if only in third place.

Conor: Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia; Uruguay and Mexico as best third-placed sides

All of these groups are fairly tight, and the nature of a single round robin gives no room for error. There's generally two clear favorites in each group, though, making it a little easier to predict who advances. That said, there's generally at least one surprise in the group stage, and this year it feels like Uruguay might be getting the short end of the stick on that one. There's also going to be an interesting battle between Ecuador and a talented-but-shorthanded Mexico side, who rested most of their best players for the Gold Cup later this summer -- that one feels like it will go Ecuador's way.

Kevin: Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia; Mexico and Paraguay as best third-placed sides

If only because Peru and Venezuela will probably take points off each other, a couple of teams that might be inferior to them look set to advance. It'll be a surprise if each group headliner -- Brazil, Argentina and Chile -- fails to finish on top. The tightest battle in this tournament is between Paraguay and Uruguay for second place in their group with Luis Suarez suspended, but Uruguay should still have enough talent to squeak through.


Jack: Chile and Brazil; Brazil to win

If correct, my group stage predictions would set up pretty predictable quarterfinals (perhaps with the slight exception of Brazil vs. Uruguay). Once into the semifinals, I'd fancy Chile to use their home advantage to surprise Colombia, while I predict Dunga's new-look Brazil to get one over on their old rivals Argentina. For the neutral, it would be great to see Chile lift the trophy in front of their home fans, but I think Neymar and Co. will have too much at the final hurdle.

Conor: Chile and Argentina; Argentina to win

My predictions set up some interesting quarterfinals. Chile-Uruguay makes for a fun and tough matchup, and both Argentina-Mexico and Ecuador-Colombia should be good for some quality entertainment. The semi-finals see some more straight-up battles, with Chile and Colombia squaring off in one, and Brazil and Argentina in the other. Either semifinal could go either way, but this feels like it's going to be the home nation against Lionel Messi and company, with the world's best player coming out on top.

Kevin: Chile and Argentina; Chile to win

Who doesn't love cheering for the home side? And besides, how funny is this "Lionel Messi can't do it in an Argentina shirt" narrative? It's hilarious, and nothing would be better than him winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot, carrying a mediocre team by himself, while losing in the final.

Best player

Jack: Eduardo Vargas

There's every chance this prediction will backfire, but the Copa América has traditionally offered the chance for talented youngsters to show their true potential while the global superstars start to unwind at the end of a long European season. Chile attacker Edu Vargas, now 25 years old, will be hoping that this is finally his time to shine.

Conor: Lionel Messi

There's a ton of good players in this tournament, but this really feels like Messi's year to step up and cast aside what few doubts about his status as the world's best remain. Argentina look poised to push for a title run, and if they pull it off, it's going to be Lionel Messi pulling the strings and earning the plaudits.

Kevin: Lionel Messi

He's Lionel Messi. I do not see a compelling reason to pick against him.

Best young player

Jack: Roberto Firmino

23-year-old Roberto Firmino looks set to leave Hoffenheim for a European giant this summer, but it remains to be seen where and for how much. Given that he looks set to play an important role in Dunga's Brazil team, his current club will no doubt be hoping the attacker can add a few million to his price tag with some impressive performances.

Conor: Philippe Coutinho

The 22 year old Liverpool star just had probably his best club season, and has been rewarded with a place in Brazil's Copa squad for it. Dunga will probably start the tournament with him on the bench, but the versatile attacking mid will be a regular feature as an impact sub and is an injury away from being a starter. This kind of tournament is the perfect display for a player of his gifts, and he'll have a good chance to show the world what he can do.

Kevin; Diego Rolan

With Suarez out, someone is going to have to pick up the load for Uruguay. It looks like Rolan is going to get the nod next to Edinson Cavani, and he should pick up a few goals simply because Cavani will be crowded any time he gets near the box. Rolan will be left in space repeatedly, and he's good enough to capitalize.

Top goalscorer

Jack: Neymar

Neymar is the best player on the Brazil team, and one of the best players in the world. Likely to be handed a starting role as a centre-forward for Dunga's side, he should have no problem filling his boots.

Conor: Sergio Agüero

If Argentina are going to push for the final and, hopefully, a 15th Copa America title, they're going to have to score plenty of goals. If they do, Agüero will be at the center of it all, gobbling up through balls from Lionel Messi and company to put the Albiceleste on the board over and over again.

Kevin: Alexis Sanchez

I'm going out on a limb a bit here, because Sanchez is just as much a playmaker as he is a goal-scorer for Arsenal and Chile. But he's in a weak group, and I think he's going to play in six games. I can't pick Messi or Aguero, because they play on the same team, and will likely keep each other from winning.


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