Chile: Home AdvantageBy: Juan Mesa
Chile hosts Copa América looking to win it for the first time, nothing less.
And it’s not only because of the home advantage that things could be different for La Roja in this edition of the tournament, after being runner-up four times (1955, 1956, 1979 and 1987). This time around they have what may be their most talented generation of players ever.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: A host team needs leaders, and Chile has them in every line. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo certainly past the test during his first season in FC Barcelona; defender Gary Medel earned some respect in Italy patrolling the Internazionale backline; midfielder Arturo Vidal got another scudetto with Juventus; and Arsenal’s forward Alexis Sánchez was voted Player of the Year in the English Premier League by the fans.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: While Gary Medel is nothing but a warrior, there are questions about the intensity of other defenders in Chile’s roster. The offense-intesive style imposed by coach Jorge Sampaoli —who inherited it from Marcelo Bielsa (2007-2011)— is risky, and rivals usually find opportunity for counterattacks. Everybody has to be Medel if they don’t want disappointments.
COPA AMÉRICA CHANCES: A strong team playing in its own turf makes the conditions perfect for Chile to lift its first Copa América. Winning group A against Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia should only be the warm-up for the party.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Chile last hosted Copa América in 1991, the last time it was played under the 10-team format (after that, Conmebol started inviting two guest nations). There were only two groups and the champion was the team with more points after a final round played by the top two teams of each group. In 2015, 8 cities will serve as venues (versus 4 in the 1991 edition), and after the group phase the tournament will have a bracket system that leads to a final. In 1991, a Chile commanded by Zamorano (then with Sevilla, soon to be an underdog star in Real Madrid) ended up third, while an Argentina commanded by Batistuta, Simeone and Caniggia took the tournament home.
IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: Heist classic Ocean’s Eleven (you choose if you prefer the Sinatra or the Clooney version). These guys are in a mission to steal Copa América from the usual suspects and smile for a long time after.