Copa America 2015 predictions |

They will be meeting the superior and fresher Argentines, with a rampant Messi bent on a mission.

Instead, Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile, are the teams to bet on reaching the finals against Argentina and each could give the albicelestes a run for their money. Group A is composed of hosts Chile (ranked 13th in the world by FIFA), Mexico (B squad), Ecuador FIFAs 27th), and Bolivia (103rd). The 2014 World Cup and the 2014-15 Champions League had many unexpected things happen, but in the end the best team won and the better teams, regardless of ultimate advancement, showed who they were.

Second, he has a chance to bury Cristiano Ronaldo, who is idle this summer, in their perennial Ballon dOr race. It would take a miraculous astrological alignment for the canary team to win.

The tournament will begin with the twelve nations divided into three groups of four teams, with the top two teams automatically progressing and the two best third place finishers moving on with them to the quarterfinals stage. To rub it in, Brazils naysayers will want a semifinals between the two archrival South American giants, the same hoped for match that did not materialize in the 2014 World Cup. First, he needs a Copa America title followed by a World Cup trophy to cement his place in the pantheon of the all-time greats, and this is his last best chance to win this tourney.

This year marks the 99th edition of the Copa America, the South American nations football championship. In that tournament Messi will turn 31 and probably be in decline, making a win tougher. In Group B, we have Argentina (FIFAs number 2), Uruguay (8), Paraguay (76) and Jamaica (113). It will be at that stage that hosts Chile will face their first real challenge. Should Messis team not win this tournament, even winning a couple of additional domestic and European club titles will not suffice to take him to the top of footballs pantheon should he also fall short in the 2018 World Cup. James Rodriguezs Colombia are the equals of Alexis Sanchezs Chile and Edinson Cavanis Uruguay (given the biting Luis Suarez will not participate as he is still under a FIFA disciplinary suspension). Colombia and Chile will probably meet with the better Colombians either falling to the home crowd-fueled Chileans or again winning a pyrrhic victory. Nearly twice as old as the Euros (founded 1960 as opposed to 1916), the CONMEBOL competition is between the ten nations of the continent plus two invited guests. If we assume Chile wins their group, they will next meet a team that they should handle easily, putting them into a semifinal that will be composed by the winner of two runner-ups, those of Groups A and C. With only Neymar as a true offensive superstar, with a coach whose penchant is rough defense, and with a defense that, as that 7-goal score line would suggest, is clearly an on-again/off-again bargain, this team isagainripe for the picking. The final group, C, has Brazil (FIFAs 6th), Colombia (3), Peru (54) and Venezuela (85).

All tourneys have their special Cinderella teams and unexpected results. The better odds for best third place finishers would be Ecuador/Mexico-B, Paraguay and Peru.

Argentina are the prohibitive favorites not only because they are the most talented team in the world, man-for-man, but because Lionel Messi is in stellar form and with a double chip on his shoulder. The Copa America is a small tourney and there is less opportunity for surprises as the teams and players know each other very well. So, again, barring the truly unexpected or unsportsmanlike (say a poor referee deciding a match or a horrendous injury to a key player marring a contenders chances) I expect we will have a pretty straightforward advancement of the usual suspects with but an earlier round upset to keep things interesting.

In the quarterfinals, Groups A and B have the inside track with their winners facing third place teams while Group C has a runner up to contend with right away. So expect Messi, and thus Argentina, to do well this summer. So, unfortunately for Neymar, this potential semifinal would not be much of a contest as the Argentines are by far the stronger team. Since the two guests are more likely to be competitive in their own confederations competition it is expected that they will field stronger squads for the Gold Cup and B squads for the Copa America.. Despite the cosmetic spin coach Dunga might want to put on thingsand yes the Brazilians are undefeated since he took overthe fact remains that this is not a team at the same level as a Germany, Netherlands, or Argentina.

But Uruguay will meet Brazil before moving on and the Brazilians, ever since 1970, are the Uruguayans kryptonite. If we postulate that we have Ecuador, Mexico-B and Peru moving on with the usual suspects, we can take some guesses as to what will happen.

It would not be stretch to say that Chile and either Ecuador or Mexico-B will progress in Group A, Argentina and Uruguay in Group B, and Brazil and Colombia in Group C.

Assuming Argentina wins their group, and their following match against a third place team, they would next meet the winner of the match between presumed second place Group B finishers Uruguay, and either Brazil or Colombia. The Chileans have the home field advantage, the Colombians have the most to prove, and the Uruguayans, well they are the Uruguayans, winners of 15 previous cups.

This being Messis year, though, as opposed to last year being Ronnies and Marios, bet on Argentina to take home the silverware come tourneys end, and on Messi to hoist that ballon in Zurich come years end.

So expect the verde-amarela to progress no further than to a heartbreaking semi-finals loss against a better team. So the tournament is tilted toward setting up Chile with but one truly tough match before the final, while Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia, are all mostly in each others paths to reach that final. If the Uruguayans pull out a win, it will be at such a physical cost that their next match will be an easy win for anyone they oppose. In 2015 the two guests are CONCACAFs Mexico and Jamaica. Whichever team survives to the semifinals will meet the same fate as will the team that reaches the final. In the long run this would be favorable to Brazils re-development into a world superpowerit would be fuel for a generation to have notched two painful back-to-back losses on their home continent. As the CONCACAF Gold Cup will also be contested this summer the two guest teams will have to field two separate national squads. Brazil are not the Brazil of old but the team that lost 7-1 at home to Germany last summer

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