Copa America Group A Preview
A look at the teams in Group A and their projected order of finish:
There have been major changes since the World Cup, with Sergio Batista replacing Diego Maradona as coach. He favors a 4-3-3, with Messi used as a false nine. Initial indications suggested Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi would cut in from the flanks, which would have meant no place for Tevez, Aguero or Javier Pastore, but reports from training suggest this week Tevez rather than Di Maria has been used on the right. Javier Mascherano tends to hold with Esteban Cambiasso and Ever Banega, neither of them favorites of Maradona, in a balanced midfield.
Argentina's public will expect victory on home soil, but the fear is of more underperformance and the ultimate horror of seeing Brazil lift the trophy in el Monumental.
It feels as though Bolivia has been offered up as a sacrificial lamb to get the hosts off to a positive start in the tournament's opening game, but if Argentina fails to win that encounter there's suddenly huge pressure on its second game, against Colombia. Assuming Colombia beats Costa Rica in its opener, that second fixture for the hosts looks like being key anyway: it's far better to top the group and then face a third-placed side in the quarterfinal than the second-placed team from Group C. The day after that clash in Santa Fe, Bolivia faces Costa Rica in Jujuy. If Bolivia has a chance, it is there -- at altitude and potentially with thousands of supporters having made the relatively short trip across the order. Whoever wins that game should take one of the best third-placed slots. If Argentina and Colombia draw, the final set of games could be a shootout to determine who has the better goal-difference; if there's a winner in Santa Fe, the loser -- depending on goal-difference -- could be desperately seeking a win to secure the runners-up spot and avoiding having to play the side that tops group B (probably Brazil) in the quarterfinal.