Copa America 2019: Lionel Messi, Neymar, Japan and the Maracana

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The 46th Copa America gets under way in Brazil on Friday, with a wide open tournament expected.

With some big-name absentees, debuting countries and plenty of nations who could lift the trophy it promises to be an intriguing spectacle.

Here, Press Association Sport answers some questions ahead of the opening match.

Where and when is it taking place?

Brazil will play host to the 2019 edition having won the tournament all the four previous occasions they have done so.

Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Port Alegre and Salvador, with the final at the famous Maracana.

The tournament runs from June 14 to July 7 with 26 matches played across thee four-team groups and a knockout stage.

Brazil or Argentina will win it, then?

Not necessarily.

While Brazil have been victorious in every tournament they have hosted, they have only won the Copa America eight times in their history.

Compare that to the 14 won by their great rivals Argentina and it proves their pedigree is not quite what many would expect.

Argentina, though, have struggled in recent years and have not lifted the trophy since 1993, with Uruguay boasting the most successes in the history of the competition with 15.

Meanwhile, Chile have been the team to beat in recent years, following up their maiden Copa America title in 2015 by defending the crown in its centenary year.

Who else is competing?

Since 1993, CONMEBOL – the governing body of South American football – has invited two teams from different associations to boost numbers in the finals.

Japan return for a second time having been knocked out of the group stage in 1999, while Qatar will make their debut this year.

Mexico have been invited to all previous editions since 1993 but are not participating this time around, while Australia are scheduled to enter for the first time at the 2020 event.

Japan were drawn in Group C alongside Uruguay, Ecuador and holders Chile, while Qatar will take on Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay in Group B.

Messi v Neymar will be the main attraction, right?

No.

Neymar will not be available for Brazil after suffering an ankle injury in a friendly against Qatar.

The Paris St Germain forward would no doubt have courted plenty of attention considering his status in his homeland and the fact he is facing serious off-field allegations.

Meanwhile, Argentina captain Messi has famously never been able to carry his sensational club form with Barcelona onto the international scene.

The 31-year-old has more than 20 major honours in Spain but only holds an Olympic gold medal and an Under-20 World Cup win when it comes to his Argentina trophy collection.

So, who else should we be keeping an eye on?

In the light of Neymar’s absence, Everton forward Richarlison will be looking to seize his moment to shine.

The 22-year-old has scored five goals from his 10 senior caps and has been in great form for his country over the last season.

Elsewhere, Udinese winger Rodrigo De Paul will hope to be given the opportunity to make an impression – as will fellow Serie A man Duvan Zapata.

The Colombia striker hit 23 league goals for Atalanta last season and is the pretender to Radamel Falcao’s international crown.

There will also be interest in how Alexis Sanchez performs for Chile, considering his alarming drop in form since joining Manchester United in January 2018.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Diego Maradona to leave Mexican club Dorados for health reasons

Sport360 staff 14/06/2019
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Diego Maradona has resigned as coach of Mexican second-division club Dorados for health reasons after nine months in the job.

Maradona took the reigns at Dorados, who are based in the western state of Sinaloa, in September 2018 – amusing skeptics who questioned why the 1986 World Cup champion, would move to a place better known for drug cartels than football.

But he answered his critics by coaching the struggling club to back-to-back finals appearances that brought them tantalisingly close – but not quite – to their dream of winning promotion to the first division.

However, the 58-year-old will now step away as he looks to return to full health.

Maradona “has decided not to continue in his position as manager of Dorados. Under his doctors’ advice, he will be devoting time to his health and will undergo two operations: for his shoulder and his knee,” lawyer Matias Morla wrote on Twitter.

“We thank the entire Dorados family and will continue the dream together in the future,” he added.

“Thank you for everything, Diego!” tweeted the club. “A Dorado forever.”

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Cafu thinks Brazil can win Copa America despite Neymar’s absence

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Brazil can overcome the loss of star man Neymar to claim the Copa America crown on home soil, according to former captain Cafu.

The Selecao open the tournament against Bolivia in Sao Paulo, with an expectant nation targeting victory in the South American showpiece event for the first time since 2007.

Head coach Tite, though, will be without Paris St Germain forward Neymar, who suffered ankle ligament damage in a friendly against Qatar, one of the competition’s two invited guest teams along with Japan.

Peru and Venezuela are Brazil’s other opponents in Group A, with the hosts aiming to plot safe passage all the way through to the final at the Maracana in Rio on July 7.

Cafu holds a record 142 Brazil caps and won the World Cup twice, captaining the side to victory in 2002.

The former right-back knows the weight of expectation on the Selecao, who also have concerns over Barcelona midfielder Arthur’s knee problem.

Cafu, though, believes Tite’s squad can pull together for the challenges ahead, with Chelsea winger Willian having been called up as a replacement for Neymar.

“Brazil loses a great player, one of the most important in the national team, which changes things tactically,” Cafu told reporters at a Copa America launch event in Brazil, as quoted by media outlet O Dia.

“Tite will have to build the team without him, but I believe that this will not prevent the selection of a team to play great games and that Brazil can win the title.”

Cafu added: “I think it’s going to be a different kind of Copa America than any other, with big teams.”

The Selecao beat Honduras 7-0 in their final warm-up match, with Everton forward Richarlison among the scorers.

Brazil have won the Copa America on all of the four previous occasions they have been hosts – the last time in 1989.

Bolivia may be set for the role of underdogs at the Estadio do Morumbi on Friday but head coach Eduardo Villegas is determined to make the most of their opportunity in the spotlight.

“It’s a privilege to face Brazil, the same we had against France (in a recent friendly), we want to do well,” Villegas said, quoted on the Bolivian Football Federation website.

“We know that we are a little bit below the rest, but we know that it can be levelled.

“It’s a question of attitude, of fight, desire – and that is what we are going to show in the team.”

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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