Chile is gearing up to host the 44th edition of the Copa America, the world’s oldest continental championship, and one that has provided a stage for South America’s finest to showcase their talents over the course of its 99-year history. This time, perhaps more than ever before, the teams will arrive overflowing with stars who lace their boots in some of the planet’s biggest leagues. And not only do they have their sights set on winning the coveted trophy, they are also looking to qualify for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
Chile are hosting the tournament for a seventh time and are intent on a first taste of glory. They go into the competition confident in their ability to do so, given the form of attacker Alexis Sanchez, who had an impressive season with Arsenal, and Arturo Vidal, who won the Italian league-and-cup double with Juventus as well as reaching the UEFA Champions League final. Furthermore, Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo gives the side security at the back, while Eduardo Vargas’s goal threat at the opposite end of the pitch give La Roja reason to believe they can end the curse of Copa America hosts – Colombia were the last team to lift the trophy on home turf when they triumphed in 2001.
“On paper, Chile’s group looks manageable,” said their legendary former forward Ivan Zamorano, giving an insight into the atmosphere in the host nation, whose last podium finish at the tournament was back in 1991 – incidentally also the last time they were hosts. “The outlook is promising but modern football is unpredictable. There won’t be any pressure for players of the calibre of Bravo, Alexis, Vidal and [Gary] Medel, who play in big leagues. That’ll be an advantage.”
La Roja will meet some illustrious opponents in Group A. Mexico may not be taking a full strength side toChile, but they will be led by Rafael Marquez, who captained the team at the last four FIFA World Cups™.Ecuador will likewise be tough to beat, especially with quality players such as Jefferson Montero in their ranks, while the ever-menacing Marcelo Martins will spearhead Bolivia’s charge.