The Centennial Copa America 2016, which will kick off on Friday in the United States, will be a new opportunity for Argentina’s national soccer team to break their dry spell of over 20 years without a title.
Apart from the gold medals won at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 (with an Under-23 side), Argentina has not won an official tournament since the Copa America 1993 played in Ecuador.
Adding insult to injury, the generation of soccer players led by Barcelona (Spain) star, Lionel Messi, who have not been able to win any major titles in the blue and white shirt, come into the competition after losing in the finals of the World Cup in Brazil 2014 and Copa America 2015 in Chile.
Once again, Argentina, coached by Gerardo Martinoare, favorites to win the continental tournament, which will leave South America for the first time in history, due to the amount of players on the team who are also well-known figures in European soccer.
With Messi at the helm, the coach is seeking to give greater identity to the side’s play which as a team showed a high level in the last Copa America in Chile. Despite the high level, Argentina lost to the hosts in penalties in the final.
Apart from a few new names, the Argentinian side shows continuity in its formation, including with regard to the team from the last World Cup which was coached by Alejandro Sabella.
The biggest change will be in the defense where local side River Plate’s defender Gabriel Mercado has joined the squad as well as Everton’s (England) Ramiro Funes Mori.
Jonathan Maidana (River Plate) and Victor Cuesta (Argentina’s Independiente) have also been announced as part of the squad that will be in the United States with the latter having no prior experience in the national side.
Then, from midfield to upfront, the names are almost identical to those of recent years with Javier Mascherano in-charge of midfield, Messi and goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain, who seems to have come out on top over Sergio Aguero in the final 11.
Both Martino and the players know that this tournament, commemorating the 100 years since the first edition of the Copa America in 1916, is a great opportunity to begin to settle a debt that has been getting larger every year.
Apart from their first match against Chile on June 6, the other teams in Group D (Panama and Bolivia) don’t seem to pose much of a threat to Argentina’s path to the quarter-finals.
If Argentina makes it through the group stages they will go on to face a rival from Group C which is made up of Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica and Venezuela. Argentina will face one of the two top teams from this group.
However, without a doubt, the quality of the individual players in Argentina’s squad is above all the other teams. Even Brazil doesn’t have so much skill this year as they don’t have their star player Neymar who they are reserving for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later in the year.
Despite the injury he received in the recent friendly against Honduras, Lionel Messi will be in the United States and he will have another opportunity to close a personal wound that hurts: despite being one of the players with the most titles in history, he still has not been able to win with Argentina.
To cap it all off, the lost finals against Germany in extra time (World Cup Brazil 2014) and against Chile in penalties (Copa America 2015) are still fresh in the memories of Argentina’s fans however they are ready to trust in their national team once again.
Both the star of Barcelona and other great Argentinian players from this generation know that time is running out and this Centennial Copa America 2016 and the upcoming World Cup in Russia 2018 will be the last opportunities for many of them to go down in the national team’s history books.
Therefore, for names, history and necessity, Argentina are favorites to lift the trophy on June 26 in New Jersey.