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Where can I watch it, which star players will be there and all you need to know about the Copa America

Can Lionel Messi finally win a major honour at international level and other questions set to be answered in the coming weeks.

Lionel Messi will be hoping to inspire Argentina to Copa America glory.
Lionel Messi will be hoping to inspire Argentina to Copa America glory.
Image: Eraldo Peres

Who’s hosting and when is it taking place?

BRAZIL ARE THIS year’s tournament hosts, with it scheduled to take place between 14 June and 7 July. It features six stadiums in five cities – Salvador (Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova), Rio de Janeiro (Estádio do Maracanã), São Paulo (Estádio do Morumbi and Arena Corinthians), Belo Horizonte (Estádio Mineirão) and Porto Alegre (Arena do Grêmio).

Chile had been originally due to host this tournament, with Brazil supposed to be hosting in 2015, but the two swapped, with Brazil under pressure at the time given that they were also hosting the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Chile are also defending champions, having won the last two tournaments in 2015 and 2016.

What teams are competing?

All 10 CONMEBOL sides will feature, in addition to two guest teams from the Asian Football Confederation. It is the first time there have been no CONCACAF teams since 1993, when invited teams were first allowed to compete.

The groups are as follows…

Group A: Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru.

Group B: Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.

Group C: Uruguay, Ecuador, Japan and Chile.

Who qualifies for the quarter-finals?

The top two sides qualify from the group automatically, while the two best third-place teams also make it through to the knockout stages.

Which stars will feature?

Lionel Messi’s search for a major honour at international level is destined to be one of the main storylines in the tournament.

Premier League players like Sergio Agüero, Nicolás Otamendi, Juan Foyth and Roberto Pereyra are in Argentina’s squad, as are European stars such as Paulo Dybala and Ángel Di María.

For Brazil, Neymar has been ruled out through injury, but there is still plenty of talent to choose from, including Alisson, Thiago Silva, Arthur, Philippe Coutinho, Fernandinho, Roberto Firmino, Ederson, Dani Alves and Alex Sandro.

Colombia also have a number of players that will be familiar to many Irish viewers, including James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Davinson Sánchez, Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and David Ospina.

The Uruguay squad also contains some top-class players, such as Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, José Giménez and Lucas Torreira.

Outgoing Man United star Antonio Valencia is the best-known player in Ecuador’s squad, while Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki and 18-year-old Real Madrid player Takefusa Kubo are among the standout names in Japan’s squad.

Included in Chile’s squad are Man United outcast Alexis Sanchez and Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal.

Managed by Xavi Hernandez, Qatari club Al-Sadd are the best represented team at the tournament with nine players.

There are 22 English-based players in total, with Man City the biggest Premier League representatives, with five players at the tournament.

You can view the squads in full here.

What time are games kicking off?

The first match between Brazil and Bolivia takes place on Saturday at 1.30am Irish time. Venezuela v Peru is the same day at 8pm followed by Argentina-Colombia at 11pm, and games will consistently be taking place around these times. You can view the full schedule here.

Where can I watch it?

All 26 matches will be shown on either Eir Sport 1 or 2.

Who are the favourites?

Hosts Brazil are strong favourites with the bookies, generally followed by Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Chile in that order. Rank outsiders include Qatar, Japan and Bolivia, who are all priced around 100/1. 

How are preparations for the tournament going?

Not particularly well. Per AFP: A nationwide strike called by Brazil’s trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s pension reform.

Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country’s biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government’s planned education spending cuts. 

It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America’s showcase football tournament.

So far, 58 cities have recorded protests, G1 news site reported, but numbers are expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil’s major cities.

Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the routes.

Bolsonaro’s proposed overhaul of Brazil’s pension system — which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved — is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress.

But the changes to Brazil’s retirement age and contributions have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro’s ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats.

A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday — which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais (€267.4 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais — did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown.

Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil’s finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.

It has been a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America’s biggest economy from sliding back into recession.

Additional reporting by AFP

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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