Hosts Brazil will begin their Copa America campaign against Venezuela at the Estadio Nacional de Garrincha in Brasilia on June 14.
Once club football ended in Europe, the countdown to the Copa America this year got plagued by chaos and turmoil. Argentina and Colombia were the original hosts of the tournament which was postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in May, Colombia was dropped as the co-hosts because of political unrest and tension in the country.
It then switched to Argentina with United States of America as another option, but finally the organisers settled on Brazil, which also hosted the 2019 Copa America. This decision was met with fierce reactions in the footballing community as Brazil has seen both frequent political opposition as well as one of the most severe COVID surges anywhere on the planet.
With that being said, the Supreme Court of Brazil ruled that the tournament will progress in the country, putting a rest to all the rumours and uncertainties. The Copa America is set to begin with the hosts and defending champions Brazil taking on Venezuela in Brasilia.
BRAZIL’S FORM AHEAD OF COPA AMERICA
There was considerable unrest in the Brazilian camp in the buildup to the Copa America. Many of the high-profile players including Casemiro and Neymar objected to playing the tournament in Brazil given the harrowing condition in the country due to the coronavirus and even asked other nations to join them in the protest. Head coach Tite also spoke about his reservations in cryptic terms which led to a fierce reaction from the Bolsonaro administration.
However, the tournament will go on as scheduled and the Brazilian squad will need to focus on the task at hand. Following their quarterfinal exit at the hands of Belgium in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Brazil went on to become continental champions by winning the Copa America 2019.
They defeated Paraguay and Argentina in the knockout rounds and then won the final against Peru by a 3-1 margin. That was Brazil’s ninth Copa America conquest.
Tite’s side have had a perfect 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. They have won all six of their six matches so far, scoring 16 times and conceding just twice. Brazil won 2-0 in both their recent World Cup qualifying matches against Ecuador and Paraguay.
Form guide (last five matches): W-W-W-W-W
BRAZIL’S PROBABLE TACTICS AND LINEUP AGAINST VENEZUELA
Tite has the luxury of managing one of the best squads in the tournament packed with firepower and depth almost all over the pitch.
However, the main headache for Brazil will be the lack of a reliable striker. Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Richarlison and Gabriel Barbosa will be in contention for that role.
Tite’s first choice striker – Gabriel Jesus – scored 14 goals in 42 matches for Manchester City this season and sees the output as disappointing. Roberto Firmino also endured a tough season at Liverpool, scoring only nine times in 48 games. Richarlison had a better output, scoring 13 goals in 40 matches, but he is more likely to be used as a winger.
In midfield, Brazil can rely on Casemiro to screen the defence as always. They also have depth in Fabinho. Fred and Lucas Paqueta can hold on to possession and offer creativity.
A backline of Eder Militao, Thiago Silva, and Marquinhos will be key and they have been in fantastic form this season. This will also provide Tite the opportunity to experiment with an unconventional three-man backline if he wants to.
Brazil also has two world-class goalkeepers in Alisson and Ederson to complete a side that are among favourites to win the title.
Brazil Probable Playing XI (4-3-3): Alisson (GK), Danilo, Eder Militao, Marquinhos, Alex Sandro, Lucas Paqueta, Casemiro, Fred, Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
VENEZUELA’S FORM AHEAD OF COPA AMERICA
Venezuela finished second in their group behind Brazil with a single win and two draws in Copa America 2019. They had five points to their name and advanced to the knockout stages. Venezuela were knocked out of the competition by Argentina in the Round of 16.
They’ve had a turbulent World Cup qualifying campaign and are second from bottom in the South American table. Having played six games, Venezuela have won once, drawn once, and lost four matches and have only four points to their name. Venezuela’s lone win arrived when they pulled off a major upset by beating Chile 2-1.
Bolivia defeated them 3-1 recently but Venezuela managed to hold the mighty Uruguay to a stalemate in their most recent World Cup qualifier ahead of the Copa America.
Form guide (last five matches): D-L-W-L-L
VENEZUELA’S PROBABLE TACTICS AND LINEUP AGAINST BELGIUM
It will be a mistake to downplay the Venezuelan side. Former Real Madrid assistant manager Jose Peseiro is in charge of the team and he has some quality options in Tomas Rincon, Yangel Herrera and of course, Salomon Rondon.
Much will be expected of the midfield duo of Tomas Rincon and Yangel Herrera who are known to be robust and tough. They will go for the 50-50 balls harder and make it difficult for Brazil to hold on to possession.
Out front, Salomon Rondon can be physically imposing and the defensive duo of Brazil will need to be on their toes. Failing to do so might give Rondon an opportunity to get through on goal and he’s clinical in 1v1 situations.
Russia Probable Playing XI (5-4-1): Joel Graterol; Alexander Gonzalez, Nahuel Ferraresi, Jhon Chancellor, Mikel Villanueva, Roberto Rosales; Jefferson Savarino, Yangel Herrera, Tomas Rincon; Salomon Rondon.
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