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Copa America Preview Day One: Group A

by Finbarr 28. June 2011 10:58

It wouldn't be summer without an international tournament and after the relative let down that was the 2010 World Cup, the lense is coming into focus over the continent of South America. The Copa America 2011 is almost here and it promises to be one of the best in living memory.

In the run up to Friday's kick off, we're going to be giving you a daily dose of previews, providing team by team guides. We'll be offering tips and suggestions as to who to watch out for and telling you who we think the Icons of Copa America 2011 are going to be. Today, we start with Group A.



The history: Alongside Uruguay, Argentina are the most successful team in Copa America history with 14 wins. Their last victory, though, was Ecuador '93 when a side inspired by all time greats Batistuta and Redondo defeated Mexico in the final. Defeated finalists last time out, La Albiceleste will be hoping substance trumps style on the big stage, having flattered to deceive in major tournaments of late.

The star players: Where to start with this current crop? The conveyer belt of Argentinian playmakers has been in overdrive of late... you can take your pick from Icons' own Leo Messi and Kun Aguero (above), Carlos Tevez and Angel Di Maria,  Diego Milito and Javier Pastore.

One to watch: Ever Banega has been pulling up trees in La Liga with Valencia this season. This is a chance for the classy midfielder to make his mark on the international stage.

Impress your mates:The great Fernando Redondo missed Argentina's 1998 finals campaign because he refused to obey coach Daniel Passarella's instructions to cut his hair.



The history: The Colombians have a surprisingly poor record in the Copa America, despite churning out some of the continent's finest exports over the years. Their sole victory came on home soil in 2001, when they beat Mexico 1-0 in the final. Perhaps one of their most notorious contributions to the tournament's history was when eccentric, goalscoring 'keeper Jorge Campos threw a hilarious hissy fit after scoring an own goal against Venezuela in 1995.

The star players: Since the appointment of Andre Villas Boas as Chelsea boss, Radamel Falcao (above) of Porto has been strongly linked with the London club. Alongside Brazilian Hulk, he has been prolific in front of goal over the past season, firing a record 18 goals in the Europa League.

One to watch: Premier League fans will be interested to see how Wigan's Hugo Rodallega cuts it on the international stage, whilst there has been some clamour for the signature of Udinese defender Cristian Zapata over recent weeks.

Impress your mates: Colombia were involved in the highest scoring draw in World Cup history: a 4-4 tie with the Soviet Union way back in 1962.



The history: Bolivia are traditionally one of the weakest of the South American nations and are currently on an unenviable run of not winning a game since 1997. They have, however, lifted the trophy - way back in 1963 and it's no coincidence that their best performances have been on the extreme altitude of home soil. 

The star players: The majority of the Bolivian players ply their trade within the country, meaning outside South America they are something of an unknown quantity. Again, fans of Wigan may recognise the striker Marcelo Martins (above), who played on loan for them last season. Bolivia's highest profile player, he's been on the books of Shakhtar Donetsk since 2008 without really making a breakthrough.

One to watch: As one of the youngest players of the tournament, it might be worth keeping your eye on Juan Carlos Arce.

Impress your mates: In 2007, a physiotherapist admitted prescribing Viagra to the Bolivian national team to help them play at high altitude in the capital of La Paz.

Costa Rica


The history: Costa Rica are taking part in their fourth Copa America, having been invited to replace Japan following the earthquake and tsunami tragedies earlier this year. Despite being outsiders, their record is respectable and the Central Americans have twice been quarter finalists.

The star players: ... are all at home. Having competed in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, the squad taken by Ricardo La Volpe is young and experimental, with no household names. Randall Brenes (pictured) is the squad's top scorer with four international goals, but this should be a learning curve for all involved.

One to watch: Take your pick. There are nine uncapped players in the squad and only three have reached double figures for appearances. 

Impress your mates: The worst turnout for a Football World Cup qualifier was recorded in Costa Rica in 2006, when no one at all turned up to watch Costa Rica play Panama in a CONCACAF qualifier.

Don't forget to visit tomorrow to get your Group B Preview. Also, check out our fantastic range of Copa America merchandise, featuring Maradona, Messi, Kaka, Aguero, Suarez and Passarella.

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