Bill’s Copa America Preview

As my readers may know, I love sports and always wanted to be a sportscaster and journalist. This post is my thoughts on the Copa America with a Bolivian perspective. A great new sports website, Grantland, also did a preview on the Copa America.

This weekend was the start of the Copa America, which is the South American soccer championship which takes place between World Cups. The host this year is neighbor Argentina and Bolivia had the honor of playing the hosts in the opening game Friday night. They earned a surprising 1-1 tie, and were leading 1-0 in the middle of the second half. I say surprising because Bolivia has not won a game in the cup since they hosted it in 1997. That year they lost in the finals to Brazil, aided by the extreme altitude of La Paz. Argentina has won the cup 14 times, and this year features the best player in the world the past two years, Lionel Messi and a host of European-based superstars.

The Bolivians, whose only cup championship was 48 years ago, feature Marcelo Martins, “El Matador.” He is an aggressive, exciting striker from Santa Cruz, currently playing for Shakhtar in the Ukraine. They played a solid game last night, although Argentina controlled play and had many more chances at goal. Carlos Arias in goal for Bolivia, had an outstanding game. They play next Thursday against Costa Rica (with only 10 clubs in South America, the association invites other Latin American teams to play, this year Costa Rica and Mexico are participating) and they finish up the group stage against Colombia. Hopefully they can take the momentum from last night’s draw to advance out of the group stage, although judging by their history, chances are slim.

It is not really fair for Bolivia to compete in the cup. They are a small nation and the cup is dominated by the two soccer giants, Argentina (with little brother nation Uruguay) and Brazil. They have won 36 of the 42 cups. Brazil won the last two  Copa America editions, and outside of hosts Colombia and Uruguay winning recent cups, the two have won the past 7 Copa America tourneys. They should make Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay play in the European Cup and the other nations compete the Andes Cup. It would be much more competitive. I am surprised that Bolivians still follow the games with such low chances of victory. There was a festive atmosphere in the city last night, including our neighbors that were holding a big party to watch the game.

We’ll be following the games and I am looking forward to seeing the new Brazilian star, Neymar, who last week won the Copa de Libertadores, which is the Champions League of South America, with Pele’s former team of Santos. I also enjoy watching World Cup star Diego Forlon for Uruguay. My prediction is an Argentina – Brazil final with Argentina winning in extra time.

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