Donald Trump isnâ€™t the president of the United States quite yet, and that only means his impenetrable wall along the Mexican border wonâ€™t be built in time to prevent the 2016 Copa America from taking place.
All the murderers and rapists on the Mexico, Argentina and Brazil national soccer teams can come into our country to give us a month of quality football before they can go back to their drugs and crime in the third world.
The tourney starts on Friday, June 3 with the U.S. taking on Colombia in group A and ends on Sunday, June 26 with the two most worthy teams clashing in the final. Who will those two squads be? It could be anyone. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, the U.S. or even Haiti, no one knows for sure, but weâ€™ll dive into some predictions, players to watch and storylines to follow in a moment. (By the way, I was only kidding when I said the U.S. could be in the final.)
Who are the tournament favorites?
We have our usual suspects each time the Copa America rolls around. Argentina and Brazil are the eternal favorites to win the cup, but the emergence of Uruguay and Chile as South American football superpowers have made for more interesting tournaments lately.
Chile are the defending champions and Uruguay won the previous tournament in 2011. Both teams can easily win it all this year and it wouldnâ€™t come as a surprise.
Out of these four teams, Argentina looks poised to win its first Copa America since 1993. Not only will they field the best player in the world once again in Lionel Messi, but they bring a similar squad and the same coach that finished a close second in Chile last year. Barring any distractions to this Argentina squad â€“ like, say, its best playerâ€™s involvement in a tax fraud scandal or the possible sanctions by FIFA on the Argentine Football Federation due to â€œirregularities in their booksâ€ â€“ La Albiceleste will lift a trophy on June 26.
On the Argentineâ€™s heels is Uruguay, which boasts its usual, terrifying front line of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and its even scarier midfield and defense full of hard men willing sacrifice life and limb to bring their country glory.
Brazil are only the third best team this tournament, and not lower, because of the enormous talent Brazilian national teams constantly field. Even without Neymar, Douglas Costa, Luiz Gustavo, Oscar, Thiago Silva and David Luiz, the five-time World Cup champions are historically never in need of capable athletes. Outside of its individual stars, Brazil look unimpressive. Dunga is at the helm of this squad and his teams are a drag to watch. His hiring was likely a knee jerk reaction to the 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup, so expect low scoring games and no podium finish from Brazil.
Is there a dark horse?
The real home team, Mexico, is looking nice lately. Under new coach Juan Carlos Osorio, the team is 7-0-0 with 14 goals in favor and 0 goals against. Granted, outside of the game against Chile on Wednesday and the World Cup Qualifier in Honduras on Nov. 17, 2015, the competition has been weak. But this Copa America will be the first since 2007 that doesnâ€™t conflict with the Gold Cup, allowing Mexico to field its best 11 players.
El Tri currently has a solid mixture of young, explosive talent, like Jesus Manuel â€œTecatitoâ€ Corona and Hirving Lozano, and experienced players in great form, like Andres Guardado, Miguel Layun and Javier â€œChicharitoâ€ Hernandez. This, along with a coach capable of balancing the starting 11 and the tens of thousands of fans cheering for Mexico every single game, puts them in that sweet spot where they are underdogs, but very, very good underdogs. A true dark horse.
Players to watch?
You know who the super stars are. Youâ€™ve seen them on billboards and commercials for the past several weeks. Head out to an Argentina game and catch Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. Go to an Uruguay game and watch Suarez hopefully not bite someone to death. Catch Colombia and Chile play to get a glimpse of wonder not-so-much-kids-anymore James Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez. If you donâ€™t already have a ticket to a Mexico game, pray to whichever deity you worship that you find a reasonably priced entry to one of their games to witness â€œChicharitoâ€™sâ€ greatness.
But, the real fun is finding those diamonds the emerge out of the rough during every major soccer tournament. Some kids with the potential to steal the spotlight this summer include the United Statesâ€™ Christian Pulisic, Mexicoâ€™s Hirving Lozano and Brazilâ€™s Fabinho.
Pulisic, only 17 years old, already made his Bundesliga debut with league runners-up Borussia Dortmund, scoring a pair of goals in nine appearances. But, at such a young age, one would have to wonder if Jurgen Klinsman will give him enough minutes to prove himself.
Pachucaâ€™s Lozano is fresh off his first domestic championship on a team in which he was the best player by miles. He scored eight goals and racked up four assists for his club, but the stat sheet doesnâ€™t show how dangerous he looks throughout the entire 90 minutes in a match and how much of a headache he is for opposing defenders. At only 20 years old, Lozano has a few caps with the national team. It wonâ€™t be long before the player known as â€œChuckyâ€ goes off to Europe to continue his growth.
At 22 years old, Fabinho is Brazilâ€™s next superstar fullback (Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves). Usually a right-back, Fabinho isnâ€™t quite the box-to-box player Alavez is now, but heâ€™s probably the better defender. At 19, he made an appearance with Real Madrid in La Liga on Loan from Portugalâ€™s Rio Ave. After joining Monaco on loan in 2013 and permanently in 2015, Fabinho has accumulated significant top flight minutes and even has Champions League football under his belt. Fabinho is ready, now itâ€™s up to Dunga and, probably more importantly, Dani Alves to give way for Fab.