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Historic Copa America is history in the making

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Tim Vickery | 08:04 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

I am heading down to Argentina not looking forward to the intense winter cold - quite frankly, it is the kind of thing I crossed the Atlantic to avoid - but with a warm glow in anticipation of the 43rd Copa America, which kicks off on Friday.

The tournament has a double-edged beauty. It is a pilgrimage to a place where football history was made, and a fascinating opportunity to witness history in the making.

The world's oldest continental tournament, the Copa was first staged in Argentina in 1916. There are times during the competition's 95-year history that it can claim to have showcased some of the best football ever seen at that point.

Until the Wall Street crash of 1929, it was held annually (with the exceptions of 1918 and 28), on four of those occasions in Argentina. At a time when football in the continent's south cone was catching on at extraordinary speed, these regular confrontations did much to raise standards.

In this sense, the World Cup is a child of the Copa America. Uruguay changed football by winning the Olympics of 1924 and 28, creating curiosity for a new global competition open to professionals - the World Cup, which Uruguay staged and won in 1930. None of this would have happened had Uruguay not picked up momentum and experience in the early versions of the Copa.

Then there is the 1940s, the golden age of Argentine football, with Brazil making rapid progress after professionalism had opened up the game to players from all backgrounds. I would love to have been around for the 1946 Copa, staged in Argentina, when the hosts cruised to the title, conducted by one of their all-time greats, Adolfo Pedernera. That must have been something to see.

But there will be plenty to see this year, too. And in one sense, 2011 holds an advantage over the great tournaments of the past. In terms of the strength in depth of the South American national teams, this might be the most formidable Copa ever played.

Brazil's players train ahead of the 43rd Copa America

Brazil's players train in Campana, 60km outside Buenos Aires, ahead of the 43rd Copa America. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The credit here goes not to the Copa, but to the marathon format of World Cup qualification, which is now used in South America. Since 1996, the continent's 10 countries play each other home and away, in one big league. It takes years - but remember that there are no qualifiers for the Copa America, unlike, for example, the European Championships. The South Americans are not playing any more qualifiers than the Europeans - it is just that they start the race for 2014 while Europe is still concerned with 2012.

In fact, the main consequence of the marathon format was to give the South Americans the kind of structure that European national teams take for granted. Previously, on this side of the Atlantic, there were huge gaps between competitive games - easy for the likes of Brazil and Argentina to fix up lucrative friendlies, much more difficult for the less-traditional nations.

But since 1996, these countries have been able to count on a calendar of regular competitive matches, with guaranteed income, and thus the chance to hire a top-quality coach, to keep a team together for the long term and also invest in youth development.

The difference has been amazing. Ecuador were a South American version of Luxembourg. In 2006, they made the world's last 16. Venezuela were a version of the Faroe Islands. They now have genuine hope of booking a place in 2014. Uruguay, it may be recalled, came fifth in the last set of qualifiers, and had to go through the play-offs to get to South Africa, where, of course, they reached the semi-finals.

Initially, this new format of World Cup qualification had a detrimental effect on the Copa America. After decades of disuse (coinciding with the reign of the military dictatorships), the Copa was resurrected in 1987, and was held every two years. After 1996, this meant that there was an excess of international fixtures, and the Copa paid the price. The tournament was greatly devalued, full of experimental line ups.

Now, though, the Copa has been shifted to a perfect time. Staged every four years, the tournament kicks off a new cycle of competitive matches.

Since the World Cup, the South American sides have been blooding new coaches and boosting their bank balances with friendlies. Now they have their sights on the coming set of World Cup qualifiers - and the Copa gives them a perfect opportunity to prepare. Of course, once the action kicks off in Argentina and the adrenalin kicks in, everyone will dream of lifting the trophy on 24 July. But the priority is to emerge from the competition with a battle-hardened squad ready to fight for a place in Brazil in three years' time. That is why everyone is at full strength in the Copa - or as near full strength as injuries allow.

That does not mean that there is nothing at stake over the next few weeks. Some coaches may be fatally undermined by what happens in this year's Copa, while others will have their prestige significantly boosted. And, of course, there is pressure on Argentina to end an 18-year wait for a senior title in front of their own fans. But the interest lies in the observation that the preparation is part of the process; some of the big storylines for 2014 start now.

And there is another aspect to the Copa. It is also an excellent opportunity for the host nation to invest in its football infrastructure. Argentina, like most recent hosts, is using the competition to combat the problem of excessive centralisation, the historic imbalance caused by the domination of Buenos Aires.

The capital will only stage the final. Everything else is in the provinces, from La Plata just down the road, to Santa Fe and Cordoba in the heartlands, Mendoza and San Juan near the border with Chile, and Salta and Jujuy to the north.

And the tournament comes at a fascinating moment, when teams from the provinces are beginning to raise their profile - a point emphatically proved by River Plate's relegation at the hands of Belgrano of Cordoba, Argentina's second city, which has always punched below its weight on the football field.

The 2011 Copa and its decentralising consequences count as history in the making - it will be worth putting on 20 layers of clothing to witness it at first hand.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, from where I will pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Living in Washington, DC, I follow Major League Soccer rather closely (a rarity for an American soccer fan unfortunately). There are several very good young South American players in MLS. Fredy Montero is the most well known, but there is also Joao Plata from Ecuador, Fabian Espindola of Argentina, and the World Cup Uruguayan Alvaro Fernandez. All of these players are under 25 years old and there has been a recent surge of more young South American players coming into the league. My question is how do South Americans view MLS? Do most people even know it exists?
Josh Adams

A)
It varies a bit from country to country. The profile was surprisingly high in Argentina recently, because idols such as Gallardo and Schellotto were playing there. In Brazil much less so - I set pulses running a few months back on Brazilian TV when I said that average MLS crowds were higher than the local first division. They were horrified, but checked it out and found out that it was true.

The profile is probably highest in Colombia, in part, I suppose, because of geographical proximity. If Fredy Montero came from a country further south I doubt that he would have been interested. The last time I was in Colombia I remember a player being asked if he wanted a move abroad, and replying that there were two leagues of particular interest to him - Spain and the US.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    nice article Tim. But I worry about Mano´s team. Brazilians are traditionally not very patient with coaches, and Mano has the hard task ahead of changing the style of play of the brazilian team at the same time he must get the results. He ISNT getting the results yet against big teams, so I wonder how patient will the brazilian public be for anything less than victory at Copa America.

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim,

    I disagree with the two year thing, as although line ups were experimental, it also allowed for future gems to be unearthed and expose them to tournament football at the highest level.

    The best Copa was in 1999 - and a very good example of what I have described above. The standard was very high, and for all the teams who had contested France 98, there was a youthful refreshing look to most of their sides.

  • Comment number 3.

    I seriously can't believe that River Plate went down, especially when their league system was designed to prevent their big clubs from having a bad year and getting relegated.

    I guess players like Erik Lamela are definitely leaving now.

    But I think it could be a blessing in disguise, even as horrorific as it is for their fans it sounds like having a year or 2 to rebuild is exactly what River Plate badly needs, just hope they find the right coach/president in order to do it.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ticketing on this event was a disaster. Again initially tied to a particular credit card provider and then delivered through an agent unable to cope with foreign demand. Now it seems plenty of tickets available on third party sites at steep mark ups. So travelling to Buenos Aires for the Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Final without tickets in the hope that Argentina go out at the group stage and tickets become available. You wouldnt have a couple of tickets going spare?

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice preview, looking forward to the tournament.

    Anyway, I have two questions, neither of which have much to do with the Copa:

    1. River's relegation. From the reports of hysterical over-reactions, it seems that the club's fans, as well as many people within the Argentine football community, are psychologically incapable of accepting that such an important institution can go down. But football is no popularity contest, and surely they were relegated for no reason other than their own incompetence. Isn't that a good thing, really?

    2. Women's World Cup. Brazil are among the favourites, and unlike their male counterparts in recent years have a side which actually attempts to play attractive football. But is the Brazilian public even aware that the tournament exists? If so, what's the general view of women's football in general and their side's World Cup prospects in particular?

  • Comment number 6.

    Sorry for the non-constructive post, but in solidarity:

    "ooooh VAMOS RIVER PLATE, RIVER PLATE, RIVER PLATE,VAMOS RIVER PLAAATE"

    Hope they go back up soon.

  • Comment number 7.

    I watched the Copa Libertadores final last week and thought it was a great game, I was absolutly gobsmaked with the scenes at the final whistle with both teams figthing each other. If that happened in the champions league final then there would be uproar and im sure both teams would be banned from the competition. What has the reaction been like in south America and is any punishment likely?

  • Comment number 8.

    @WalkingMzungu

    believe me, the general talk, in Brazil, at least in 2010, was that Marta was better than anyone at the national team that went to South Africa.

    the media does report on the Women´s World Cup. Terra, the biggest portal in Brazil, does have its own page for the Women´s World Cup. Sportv will show matches live (but its cable).

    at open TV, Bandeirantes will transmit all matches. The biggest brazilian network, Globo, however, will only transmit the final match.

  • Comment number 9.

    If River Plate were bad enough over three years to get relegated then that's entirely their own fault, especially when they still managed to flummox a system designed to keep them up. Only themselves to blame.

    Does anyone in Britain know if it's possible to watch the Copa America over here? I've never once come across it on TV, which is a real shame, even more so given that I'm currently unemployed and have nothing better to do than watch several hours of football a day.

  • Comment number 10.

    This is my first post on this blog although i am a big fan.

    I personally think River Plate deserve relegation they have had several chances to rectify it with a traditionally talented squad with what seems like an abundance of young potential players you would have thought they would stay up.

    Tim, are River Plate likely to see a loss in youth players joining River Plate from early ages? or is the name still enough to attract players without First Division football? Also im unclear on the Argentine league system does this mean River Plate are stuck in the Second Division for the next few years?

    Cheers for a decent blog as per usual.

  • Comment number 11.

    River plate. That is all

  • Comment number 12.

    #9 the last one was on Sky. It was excellent I must say. Hoping its on this year

  • Comment number 13.

    They went down - serves them right for poor displays. The idiotic thugs so called fans ruined it for everbody at the end. Like i said previously before, i do hope that Braszil wins the 2014 and we would not have to witness these kind of scenes should they lose. I am not saying it will happen but there are thugs everywhere in the world who have no interest in the game except for fights and looking for trouble

  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry i was reffering to Riverplate's relegation

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Tim

    Thanks for the blog on the Copa America, it's nice to know that it is happening as over here in England coverage on it is about as rare as a sensibly priced English player! Even the African Nations received far greater press and I am at a loss to explain why!

    I'm very interested to see how Argentina get on as I think along with Spain they are the best proponents of a short passing game. If Messi can produce his best and inspire Argentina to victory then perhaps we can confirm him as moving from a modern time great to an all time great.

    Are Argentina the favourites or perhaps Brazil?

    With Brazil and Argentina under relatively new managers it will be very interesting to see how they are playing. Uruguay must also be in with a shout after they were so unlucky not to reach the World Cup final.

    Sad to see River Plate demoted. Surely even Boca Juniors fans will miss the annual match!

  • Comment number 16.

    @9 and 12 -

    Copa America is on ESPN exclusively this year in the UK.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nice article Tim lad. I can't help but notice the gulf in class between CONMEBOL members and CONCACAF nations (Barring Mexico and The USA). Do you think both confederations would benefit from a merger? It would mean that American national teams would be able to have world cup qualifiers more in line with Europe and Asia. Just an idea.

  • Comment number 19.

    #18

    Not happening. The distance between beunos aires and toronto is about 5500 miles, the same as london to burma. Can you imagine A home nation flying there for a qualifier?

  • Comment number 20.

    10 - River could go straight back up if they have a good season. Promotion is based on just one season. The top 2 go up automatically, the 3rd & 4th placed teams play off against the 3rd & 4th worst teams from the first division.

  • Comment number 21.

    19. Fair point, but as most American squads are flying from across the Atlantic anyway, would it make much of a difference?

  • Comment number 22.

    As well as Geography, you also teach History then Tim. A refreshing alternative lesson on the non Anglo/Eurocentric influences on World Football origins with implicit suggestions of British inertia and Europe at war leaving us trailing in South America's wake. The list of World Cup winners, particularly in the earlier years, makes for interesting reading. I don't know anything about Uruguayan politics, but is there a correlation between political culture and a country's chances of World Cup success?

    Didn't see the last Copa, but saw a few of the World Cup qualifiers, which were fantastic entertainment, though I'm worried Chile won't be the same without Bielsa.

  • Comment number 23.

    @10

    Actually River are probably a more attractive prospect for younger players right now than anywhere else in Argentina.

    They are still a massive club one of the biggest in South America, they're going to lose probably most of the better players now to other teams, the likes of Erik Lamela are almost certain to go.

    So it's more likely young players can make it to the first team, still have better training facilities and coaches than most.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great post, Tim! I guess you will have lots of fun there - the atmosphere is just amazing... I've been at the 2007 Copa América in Venezuela. I had the fortune to watch the final - Brazil / Argentina! It was amazing to witness a game between the worlds best soccer players in one game.
    Have fun and don't forget a jacket... ;)

  • Comment number 25.

    22. Someone may correct me, but while many South American countries were going through political upheaval during the 20th century, Uruguay enjoyed a relatively peaceful period (until the early '70s anyway). As far as I know, elections were held in Uruguay regularly until 1972. That compares preferably with most of it's neighbours.

  • Comment number 26.

    The talk of the strong South American qualifying set-up brings me to thinking about the European set-up - which is a bit silly.

    There is really no need for countries to be visiting the no-hopers - town sized states like the Faroe Islands, San Marino etc, should not have access to play the likes of France, Spain etc. Its like the Brazilian State Championships!

    The smaller teams should have a pre-qualifying tournament to then be allowed access to the bigger teams. That also gives the small nations a chance to build their ability.

  • Comment number 27.

    10. As I've said previously, this could be a great chance for River to get their house in order by losing these thugs from the boardroom and also freeing themselves of any dead weight. I can't really see them staying in la segunda for more than a season. Stranger things have never happened.

  • Comment number 28.

    #25, thanks for that SlovakIron. While democracy was related to my question, I was more paticularly thinking of political orientation, rather than system.

  • Comment number 29.

    The sadness of all Millionarios today is unbearable.We well know that there are serious problems over a number of years but to see our Glorious River in the B is so so sad.

  • Comment number 30.

    Complain about this comment (Comment number 25)
    Comment number 26.At 12:55 27th Jun 2011, Bouncefootball wrote:
    The talk of the strong South American qualifying set-up brings me to thinking about the European set-up - which is a bit silly.

    There is really no need for countries to be visiting the no-hopers - town sized states like the Faroe Islands, San Marino etc, should not have access to play the likes of France, Spain etc. Its like the Brazilian State Championships!

    The smaller teams should have a pre-qualifying tournament to then be allowed access to the bigger teams. That also gives the small nations a chance to build their ability.
    -----------------------------------
    But who would decide who these 'small' nations are? It wasn't so long ago that Turkey were getting thrashed 10-0, now they are regarded as one of the strongest European nations. How about Croatia? Tiny country but almost made a World Cup final! How about Montenegro? Currently in with a great chance of making Euro 2012.

    Why shouldn't the 'small' nations like Faroe Islands play against the bigger nations? If you say player tiredness then I will say these larger nations should be able to send a younger or B team and still win. Besides the player tiredness argument is usually created by English and major European clubs (Businesses) who are worried that their players (commodities) might get injured so they will miss out on trophies (money)!

    Sorry but the calls for these countries to be excluded from competing against the traditionally more dominant nations (France, Spain etc) is ridiculous. The best way for them to be competitive is by playing against stronger teams. To prove my point look at Venezuela and the leaps forward they are making.

    International football should NEVER be watered down to suit the greed of the club teams (businesses).

  • Comment number 31.

    Copa America is continually producing fine young players and the growth of the sport in the USA will only see it produce better. The sooner the Americans adopt the beautiful game the sooner they will pour their commerical minds into it and the growth of young Yank players will grow.

    Read a blog I know well, just look all over; more footballing views... http://markbritton7.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Tim, I share your gripes it was 0c in Asunción today, this is not what I left England for!

    I think this could be an excellent Copa America as there are so many teams in the running, once you look below Brazil/Argentina there is Uruguay/Paraguay/Chile and Colombia who could all spring a surprise - if Paraguay do manage to draw with Brazil on 9th July it could see the Brazilians finishing second, meaning they meet Argentina before the final - that would really open up the tournament.

    Having said that in a recent preview that myself and some colleagues did we all picked Argentina! http://www.theelastico.com/?p=486

    Who are you picking as winners Tim?

  • Comment number 33.

    26 + 30. Although I initially suggested the two American federations should combine, it does seem stupid that nations such as Spain and Germany have to play amateurs from Andorra and San Marino. To navigate the problems, confederations could run a pre-qualifying tournament with the lower ranked teams. Nations capable of beating the weakest teams could benefit from actually winning a match or two and it would mean less meaningless run-abouts for the big boys. I don't see a problem as they do it in the CONCACEF.

  • Comment number 34.

    26,30,33- Originally I thought this could have potential, the only worry being as 30 stated just how do you define a weaker team? I'm not sure too many 'weaker' teams would agree to the that name tag.

  • Comment number 35.

    Your grammar is terrible.

  • Comment number 36.

    Thanks Tim! Very excited about this year's Cup. And looking forward to coverage and reports on the BBC... i live in Buenos Aires and work for a Spanish school, the english language coverage has been dreadful so far, so we have decided to write a blog about it if anyone's interested http://www.expanish.com/blog/2011/06/the-guide-to-copa-america-2011-by-expanish/

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Tim. Love your blog. Read it regularly. Nice to see somebody with such an in depth knowledge of South American football. I'm here for the copa myself. Going to games in Santa Fe, Salta, Jujuy, Cordoba, San Juan and Mendoza. If you have time and we're in the same city anytime would like to meet for a natter. Grant

  • Comment number 38.

    35. Don't be a pedant, this is a blog.

    34. We manage it in other sports. How do you rank a tennis player? It's not an exact science of course, but clearly Liechtenstein (recorded their first competive win in 1998) and San Marino (have only ever won one game...against Liechtenstein) are not anywhere near the same quality as Germany and Italy. You can compare the likes of Montserrat and Aruba with Mexico and The USA in much the same way. Why should a professional in the top of his game play a match against a bunch of Sunday leaguers? This isn't just about money, this about the right to play. These smaller countries have such a small population, they will never compete with larger countries. It's not fair for confederations to force larger countries to risk injuries against nobodies. CONCACEF doesn't, so why does UEFA? Anyway, I think I've officially gone completely off the topic.

  • Comment number 39.

    @SlovakIron

    I recall Iceland, Northern Ireland, or Montenegro all having had a decent shot at qualifying, whether for Euro or a World Cup. Slovenia even made the cut.

    The only countries one could safely discard as perpetually hopeless and fielding mostly amateurs are Andorra, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Faroe Islands, and Malta. Are you suggesting we cut specifically these six, or more? Is cutting those six worth it? With 53 members total, that is like twelve percent.

    Anyway, isn`t it nice to believe the idea that football is for everybody and that there is a clear connection between the amateurs of Andorra and the world cup? Isn`t that Andorran waiter lining up to kick Gerrard`s shin a part of what makes World Cups so special? For me, it has always been so. I never forget to check how the mechanists, innkeepers and bank clerks fared against the footballing mighty... or rather, how the mighty fared against them.

    On a side note, if you would cut more countries than those six, how do you think national football in, say, Georgia, would fare financially, with the opportunity to take on world-famous teams essentially taken from them? A second-tier qualification would hit these countries badly. The pool of talent in Europe would grow smaller, not larger.

    On the qualifying system of CONCACAF, this may have more to do with security. I`d say that when the system was created, many people didn`t really fancy the idea of the US team regularly travelling down to Nicaragua or Panama.

  • Comment number 40.

    This River Plate saga reminds me of Newcastle's relegation in 2008-2009. They came after just 1 season as worthy winners and have re-established themselves in the premier league. I really hope and wish River plate to do the same. Chris Hughton may apply for the job there. he has done it in the past, he can do it again

  • Comment number 41.

    39. I'm not saying cut out these teams, I'm saying that the worst ranked teams could go through a pre-qualification round. Yes, this is very likely to include the six you just mentioned, plus any other teams that have lost their way. Just look at some of these teams track records. Some of them have been 'competing' for decades, yet haven't even seen a win. Surely it would be better for national pride to win a game than to get stuffed by Portugal again.
    I'd prefer to leave money out of the argument, especially in regards to international football. It should be about pride and there is nothing like winning to instill that. But fair point, it probably isn't workable in Europe.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi Tim

    So who in your opinion is going to win it?
    I would love Argentina to win there first trophy since 1993, they have the best players but when the going gets tough have they leaders? I know Maradona is often thrown in to converstaions for no reason, but himself and Ruggeri were Argentinas' last leaders, and I dont see one in this team, with the exception of Tevez, who isnt guaranteed a stating position,I fancied Uruguay a few months ago but Forlan seems to have gone off the boil, Chile are in a transitional period after Bielsa leaving, so its got to be Brasil or Argentina, and hopefully this time Argentina will prevail and prove me wrong.

  • Comment number 43.

    Growing up in Argentina for 13 years 5-18. I learned the importance of love for your club. As a Boca Juniors fan I am unemotional for RiBer Plate. This system was introduced when Boca had an awuful run of years. But I can't laugh that much at them, could be in the same boat soon. To answer a question of a previous comment #10 River can come back up in a year’s time. This time next year there will be more play-offs between bottom teams of division A and top of the B league.

    But to change the subject I am ssssoooo exited about the Copa America it will be wonderful to see the Argies win something again (hopefully). that team has to be good

    Romero
    Zabaleta Mascherano Milito Zanetti
    Banega Cambiasso Pastore
    Messi Tevez Agüero

    Low and fast up front and hard in the back!!! Cambiasso playing DM and Banega - Pastore free to roam and make everyone else play

  • Comment number 44.

    Cheers for all the replies seems like a weird league system to me but i get it now! Surely this Copa America should be Uruguay's for the taking following their World Cup performance or do people see that as a sort of fluke of sorts? I would personally back Argentina. Its being played on their soil although like Brazil they have seen their fair share of problems recently.

  • Comment number 45.

    As a fan of Boca Juniors I have to admit that watching the demise of River Plate was not a enjoyable experience, the scene's at El Monumental as the plot unfolded and the reality sunk in that one of the world's greatest football club's and institution's where sinking to a all time low. For me in a football sense it's one of those "where was you when" moment's. People have said it's like one of England's top 4 go down, all the team's in the EPL have suffered relegation at some stage in history, it's more like one of the Old Firm club's go down and in many way's the 2 rivalries are very similar, they have most of the countries support, they have won the most title's, they have a hatred for each other but most importantly one without the other is nothing. The Boca fan's in Buenos Aires will revel in Rivers demise but when the fixture's for the new season are printed and the superclasico is not there, then reallity will sink in. Well done to Belgrano but for me a sad day for football, lets hope River can sort out the mess, keep the hooligans out and get themselves up in 1 years time because the Primera will be a quieter room without them.

  • Comment number 46.

    The last Copa America was the best international tournament I've seen by a huge distance. Everyone said Euro 2008 was the best international competition for years, particularly all the Euro-centric pundits and newspapers who were in full-blown "Look what England can learn from other nations" self-flagellation mode at that point. However, the 2007 Copa America had much more goals (3.31 per game, compared to 2.48 at Euro 2008), higher attendences (average around 40,000 per game, versus 36,000) and for my money, even better football. I can say without hyperbole that no football side has given me more joy to watch than the Argentina side of 2006-7. I'd watch them over Barcelona, over Spain, over anyone. Riquelme in particular was an absolute genius at that time, everything Xavi is now, but with an added eye for spectacular goals. And yet that team lost 3-0 in the final to a wildly unpredictable Brazil side that lost their opening game and scraped into the final on penalties.

    I was working behind a bar at that time, and I used to get in from work just as the matches were kicking off, around 12-1am. It felt like nobody else in the world even knew it was happening. Great memories, great tournament. Hoping this one is just as good - I'm going to subscribe to ESPN for the month just to catch it all.

  • Comment number 47.

    Should be a fascinating Copa America, Argentina to me has the obligation to win this year, playing at home and with a star filled team led by Lionel Messi. They are getting Brazil at what seems like a good time while they are rebuilding. Then again I thought the same in 2004! Argentina need to end their streak dating back to 1993 which is the last tournament Argentina have won at the senior level.

    Here I think is an interesting fact about the history of the Copa America, neither Maradona nor Pele ever won a Copa America although they each played in the competition. But Alfredo DiStefano, who never played in a World Cup, did win the Copa America.

    As for River's relegation, Matias Almeyda has decided to retire following this relegation and he will be the club's new coach! JJ Lopez fell on his sword and stepped down. You know this was the 4th club Lopez has coached which has been relegated to the Nacional B! He previously brought Instituto, Union, Talleres and now River down to the second division. Is that a record for most relegations for a single coach? Hard to believe Passarella would give the River coaching job to such a coach then, even one who was an idol at the club like Lopez.

    River will have some big club company next season in the Nacional B as Rosario Central will be one of their rivals. And River can still play Boca next season, only it will be Boca Unidos from Corrientes province! Oh and Independiente too but Independiente Rivadavia from Mendoza.

    In 1981 San Lorenzo were relegated but quickly regained promotion the following season while in 1983 Racing went down but it took them two years to fight there way back. But as Rosario Central who went down this time last year found out, it is not always easy to immediately get out of the Nacional B.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:
    http://z8.invisionfree.com/Soccer_Futbol_Forum/index.php

  • Comment number 48.

    Does anyone in Britain know if it's possible to watch the Copa America over here? I've never once come across it on TV, which is a real shame, even more so given that I'm currently unemployed and have nothing better to do than watch several hours of football a day.

    softlogger.com

  • Comment number 49.

    Re: Post 48

    The Copa America is on ESPN in the UK.

  • Comment number 50.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator][Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]Love the copa!

    The passion for soccer in South America is so much better than over here in Europe. People live for the game, that's something we can learn from...

  • Comment number 51.

    Dear Tim,
    How come Mexico can take part in CONCACAF Gold Cup and COPA America? Its like Morocco taking part in EUROPE Cup and also African Cup of Nations. Is this possible?
    Thanks

  • Comment number 52.

    #51, at first only CONMEBOL countries (10 of 12 South American countries) took part at Copa America. But some CONCACAF countries complained about the tournament’s name. As a solution CONMEBOL decided to invite two CONCACAF countries to take part at every edition of Copa America.

    I remember that CONCACAF used to do the same towards CONMEBOL. That is, South Americans were invited to take part at CONCACAF’s version of Copa America. Brazil took part once or twice of this tournament.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 55.

    Great article Tim. I agree Brazilians are not very patient with coaches, however I think they'll give Mano some time. Cheers, Kevin at gamersnetwork.org

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Tim,

    Great blog as always.

    On another note I wondered what your thoughts were on the U17 World Cup currently taking place in Mexico and in particular tomorrow's last 16 clash between England and Argentina. England have looked good so far in winning their group whereas Argentina scraped through as one of the best 3rd placed teams.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hi Tim, we'll be following your blog avidly from this side of the pond (Buenos Aires...), as a fellow brit, i feel your pain about the weather, especially as england is experiencing such great weather.

    Anyway, if you are at a loose end at any point during your time in Argentina, come and see us and get some spanish lessons http://www.expanish.com (on us!)

    Expanish School

 

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