In recent weeks, both Brazil and Argentina have been embroiled in controversy regarding the future of the Copa America. The two South American giants met on June 7 in the 2016 Copa America Centenario final, with Brazil emerging victorious on penalties. But the controversy surrounding the final, which took place in the US, didn’t end there.
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all the hype surrounding the upcoming Copa America and its host city, it’s easy to forget that South America will host two qualifying rounds for the 2022 FIFA world cup But these are bigger games. These dates were originally scheduled for friendly matches for the Copa. But because of the pandemic, South America is far behind. Only four rounds were played. Fourteen others are expected to be introduced by the end of March next year. So there’s a round this Thursday and Friday and another next Tuesday before the teams head to Brazil for the Copa. – 2022 FIFA World Cup? How the world qualifies – Why the Copa America moved to Brazil: All you need to know This puts South American international football in a curious position. No game has been played since last November. Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador could play friendly matches in March. Everyone else is meeting for the first time in seven months. And now the warm-up games are more important than the tournament that follows. The Copa America is clearly of secondary importance. The priority for everyone is to go to Qatar at the end of next year. The South American confederation CONMEBOL has four automatic places for the 2022 World Cup which kicks off on 21. Next November, the fifth-ranked team is expected to make the playoffs. So far, three teams are top of the rankings and two of them will face each other in Friday’s only match when Brazil hosts Ecuador in Porto Alegre. After four matches, Brazil is on top of the CONMEBOL rankings for World Cup qualification. NELSON ALMEIDA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images With four wins in four games last year, Brazil found a combination that was better than anything it had done since the end of the last World Cup qualifying cycle. The loss in the quarterfinals against Belgium in Russia 2018 has left coach Tite stunned. His team was too open on the left flank. He responded with a more cautious approach from his defenders, but it never looked convincing, even though Brazil won the Copa 2019 at home. Since then, he has tried something new by bringing left-back Renan Lodi forward while midfielder Douglas Luiz closes the space behind him. But with Douglas Luiz injured, the Ecuadorians got a glimmer of hope as they went on the counter-attack. Under Argentine coach Gustavo Alfaro, Ecuador started with a very defensive game and a 1-0 defeat against Argentina, followed by three exciting victories. They will be wary of Brazil’s attacking power and are expected to be cautious again. Realistically, they will feel that anything they get out of this game is a bonus, and their goal will be to move forward with confidence in their abilities. On the other hand, the Brazilians have never lost a World Cup qualifier at home – a record that should one day be broken, and they could be even more vulnerable after such a long break. But a Brazilian defeat would have been an even bigger shock than Monday’s unexpected news that the country will host the Copa America. The other team doing well is Argentina, who have improved greatly under Lionel Scaloni since the 2019 Copa, where they lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. Since reaching the final of the Copa Centennial in the United States five years ago the team has not looked like being up to the task, with three wins and a draw, and they are favourites to win again at home against Chile on Thursday night Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest developments and discuss key storylines. Broadcast on ESPN+ (US only). However, not all their problems have gone away. There is always a lack of talent in central defense. But will Chile be able to test this weakness? New coach Martin Lasarte will have to do without midfielder Arturo Vidal, who was hospitalised after testing positive for COVID-19. And the big problem is one that the previous coach, Reynaldo Rueda, had to deal with for two years before he decided to step down: Chile lacks players with the quality of the generation that won two Copas in a row in 2015-16 and is still relying on the old guard. Rueda has jumped ship to lead his native Colombia. He’ll go full steam ahead right away, with an important away game against Peru ending on Thursday. Colombia has four points and suffered a disastrous two-set loss in November. Peru have just one point and desperately need a win to avoid losing points. Another very exciting match takes place earlier in the day between Uruguay and Paraguay. Both teams are in the middle of the pack with six points. The winners are in the lead group and the losers are in the followers. It will be interesting to see Uruguay’s approach. Edinson Cavani is absent and several other strikers are injured. This could be an opportunity for coach Oscar Washington Tabarez to deviate from his usual 4-4-2 system. Uruguay can make more use of their talented young central midfielders and deploy wingers on either side of Luis Suarez. This should be a chance for playmaker Jorjian De Arrascaeta to use his favorite position – in the middle. But he’s also contracted COVID-19. The other match, the first of the round, is between Bolivia and Venezuela. Bolivia is at the bottom of the league table with just one point and all hopes are pinned on a win in this match. Venezuela, the only South American team never to qualify for a World Cup is disappointed to have picked up just three points. And it will be very difficult for them in the current climate. Some European coaches who have recently worked in South America have marveled at the problems associated with altitude, where the ball flies faster in thin air and unaccustomed players gasp and cannot play their usual game. The experienced Carlos Queiroz lost his job with Colombia last November after an embarrassing 6-1 defeat in Quito, the highland capital of Ecuador. Queiroz is Portuguese, as is Venezuela’s national coach Jose Peseiro, who now faces even more extreme heights in La Paz. This match will be a test of their preparation for the kind of competitions that make qualifying for the World Cup in South America so competitive and exciting.
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