The Copa América kicked off on Thursday with host country Chile dominating play over Ecuador in a 2-0 victory, in a match watched by approximately 10 people in Argentina. This year will be the 44th Copa América, a tournament that features the 10 best South American teams and two additional invited teams (criteria deciding said invitations remains a subject of fascination). This year, Jamaica and Mexico will be joining the mix.
Despite a questionable haircut, Messi is currently in full form and the country is hungry for victory (Argentina last won was in 1993), or at least somewhat eager. Messi is riding high this year after a mopey 2014 season, having won the triple crown of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. However for this tournament, he will not have his terrible trio with club teammates Suarez and Neymar, with whom he unleashed nuclear destruction on the soccer world. Messi still has a tremendous amount of talent to work with, including Di María, Agüero, Tevez and Higuaín, but it is unlikely that any combination will not have defenders soiling their diapers like Barcelona’s front line did.
Let’s not forget that half the teams in the tournament this year are coached by Argentines, including Ecuador, although it did them no favors on Thursday. Argentina’s first opponent, Paraguay, is in the same boat, led by former River striker and coach Ramón Díaz, who will have to suck up his dwindling pool of Argentine pride when his team takes the field on Thursday.
Despite what recent history has to say, Argentina is the clear favorite in this tournament and anything but victory will bring a frenzy of national pouting. Who knows, maybe there will even be another strike! Faced with such a heinous outcome, the pressure is really on for Messi and the boys. However, what really sucks for Argentina is that even with victory, it’s still only the Copa América, with maybe five competitive teams (Jamaica’s in the tournament. Jamaica.)
Bottom line: it’s not the World Cup and nobody really cares except Messi and your annoying little brother. But still, Argentina has to win to not bringeth shame upon the country.
Neymar’s Brazil is most likely Argentina’s biggest challenger, but they won’t meet until the semis later this month, leaving Uruguay, looking to defend its title, as Argentina’s biggest early rival.
However Uruguay is greatly hindered by not having its star player. Luis Suárez, a Messi teammate and renowned snapping turtle, is serving an international suspension due to his mistaking Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder for an empanada. The showdown against Uruguay will be next Tuesday, June 16, and the final match of the group stage will be four days later on the 20th. It is in this final match that Argentina gets to unleash hell on Jamaica and, needless to say, if that doesn’t happen, somebody’s getting canned.
The classically Argentine style that begs the question, “What is defense?” should be on display with the large number of Argentine coaches. Hopefully this means the the Copa América will be somewhat more exciting. For those looking for something more thrilling, make sure to follow Messi’s edge-of-your-seat tax evasion trial in Spain.