Copa América Preview: Brazil and Peru
Welcome to the weekend primer of Between the Posts, where this time, we take a slightly different approach. Instead of a match-by-match preview, we’ll preview the 2019 Copa América, kicking off this weekend.
This is part one of a three-part mini-series looking at the six major favorites going into the tournament. In this article, we look at the top teams from group A.
FIFA ranking: 3
odds to win: 41%
How do you feel when you enter a situation where winning is the only acceptable outcome? Pressured is probably how Tite and his Brazil squad feel right now, entering the 2019 Copa América. Brazil are perennial favorites for this tournament, and even more so with this edition being played on home soil.
Wait a moment, Brazil playing a major international tournament on home soil… Didn’t we see that before, not too long ago. Something with a nation-wide trauma and a 7-1 defeat against Germany?
Tonight, Brazil will kick off the tournament against Bolivia, with matches against Venezuela and Peru coming in later. Three very winnable games – on paper – but as the cliché goes football is played on grass rather than paper. And while the low scoring nature of football makes it hard to predict outcomes with any degree of certainty, this is even more pronounced in the short span of tournament football. Brazil possess by far the most impressive squad and have the home advantage on their side. Yet, there is not a single bookie who gives Brazil more than fifty percent chance of winning the 2019 Copa América.
In terms of tactics, veteran manager Tite has ditched the 4-3-3 shape that was the go-to formation at the World Cup in Russia. Brazil are now playing in a 4-2-3-1 shape and are likely to field Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson in goal over Manchester City’s Ederson, who is also struggling with fitness. Filipe Luis complements a PSG-laden defense of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, and captain Dani Alves. The double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. of their 4-2-3-1 formation hangs on Real Madrid’s Casemiro and probably Fernandinho over Allan, the latter struggling with fitness issues. Barcelona’s midfielder Arthur was starting the last two friendlies before the tournament started, but has been ruled out for the tournament opener with a minor injury.
Brazil’s most probable starting eleven. Lots of options next to Casemiro!
The biggest injury news from Brazil’s friendlies leading up to the Copa América is not about Arthur, but about Neymar. After being forced to miss out on the decisive game during the aforementioned 2014 World Cup due to a back injury, Brazil’s most iconic active player is forced – yet again – to watch from the stands as his team fights to live up to the expectations. Throw in a horribly unlucky World Cup exit against Belgium and that’s how quick your legacy as a national team player can be thrown out of the window.
In Neymar’s place, it looks like Ajax’ David Neres is in for a starting XI spot on the left flank, with Phillippe Coutinho playing in the hole, and Everton’s Richarlison from the right wing. Tactically, it would make sense to start Roberto Firmino up front, to use his skills to drop from the striker spot and make space for the onrushing flank players Neres and Richarlison. Alternatively, Tite could choose to start Gabriel Jesus, who has looked in great form recently and has been the more favoured striker by Tite.
Oh, and one more thing that makes tonight’s game against Bolivia special. Brazil will wear their away kit, which means the first time since 1957 that the Seleçao will play in a white shirt. Looks cool, doesn’t it?
— Paulo Freitas (@Cynegeticus) June 13, 2019
FIFA ranking: 20
odds to win: 3%
Life is good in Group A of the 2019 Copa América. Okay, being potted with hosts and big time favorites Brazil makes a first place finish in the group unlikely, but making the second place in group A puts you up against the second placed team of group B. From a mathematical perspective it wouldn’t be all that unlikely to see two of group A’s teams make it to the semi-finals. The funny dimensions of a three-group tournament at work.
Enter Peru, two time winner of the Copa América in a distant past, but also semi-finalists in two out of the most recent three editions. Say Peru and you say Paulo Guerrero – 35 years of age, 91 caps – and Jefferson Farfan – 34 years of age, 92 caps. The two veterans are probably entering the final major tournament of their careers, but while Guerrero still looks a likely starter spearheading the 4-2-3-1 formation, Farfan has been reduced to a role on the bench in both pre-tournament friendlies. Behind Guerrero, left back Miguel Trauco and creative midfielder Christian Cueva, both plying their trades in the Brasileiro, will lead the defense and midfield.
Peru’s starting eleven in the last friendly against Colombia.
For manager Ricardo Gareca, the Copa América should bring back memories of the tournament that really kick-started his career as national team manager. Appointed shortly before the 2015 edition, leaving his position as Palmeiras manager, he quickly turned things around at Peru and led them to a surprise third place finish. Nicknamed ‘Tigre’, he has installed an admirable fighting spirit in the team, which helped them win a lot of hearts at an ultimately disappointing 2018 World Cup in France. They succumbed to 1-0 losses to Denmark and France, before defeating Australia 2-0 and finally getting the result their play deserved, albeit too late.
Since the World Cup, Peru has only played friendlies and results have not exactly been convincing. Wins over fellow Copa América participants Chile and Paraguay and most recently Costa Rica have been the exception in a series with six losses out of ten matches played.
Peru kick off the 2019 Copa América against Venezuela, with the tough clash with Brazil coming as the final group match. Playing as they did during the 2018 World Cup should give them a fighting chance to be qualified before going up against the big favorites, with an interesting quarter-final against the runners-up in Group B beckoning.