Football

Brazil favoured to defend title on its home turf

Primed for it: The National Stadium in Brasilia being readied for Copa America’s opener.  

Brazil’s international players were reluctant to play in the Copa America on home soil. Now that they’re committed, they’re favoured to win it.

Argentina still looms as a threat to Brazil’s title defence. Being away from home takes some pressure off Lionel Messi and his Argentina team.

The Copa America will kick off Sunday with defending champion Brazil against Venezuela in Brasilia. The final will be on July 10 in Rio de Janeiro.

No spectators will be allowed to attend any Copa America matches because of restrictions in place for the pandemic, which has already delayed the tournament by a year.

With the likes of Neymar on board, coach Tite expects not only to defend the title lifted in 2019, but also use the next 30 days to prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Argentina placed third in the 2019 Copa America, but the team has improved under coach Lionel Scaloni.

Defender Cristian Romero, and midfielders Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso are now trusted to break the opponents’ lines.

Up front, Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero bring the same respect.

And that means Messi, who turns 34 later this month, doesn’t need to be part of every play for Argentina to win.

Colombia has improved since the return of coach Reinaldo Rueda. Copa America could further enhance the team, which will not have midfielder James Rodriguez because of fitness problems.

Uruguay has struggled despite counting on Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani. Uruguay hasn’t won any of its three latest matches on the road to Qatar.

The tournament will be divided into two groups of five. Group A includes Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay.

Brazil is in Group B with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

The four best of each group advance to the knockout stage.


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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 2:32:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/brazil-favoured-to-defend-title-on-its-home-turf/article34800642.ece

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