Copa America 2020: It’s samba time without spectators!

New host Brazil enters as the favourite. The powerhouse unit dominated the previous edition in 2019, going on an unbeaten run to win the title.

An aerial view of the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. CONMEBOL announced that Brazil will host the Copa America, initially scheduled to be played in Colombia and Argentina. Due to an ongoing social crisis, Colombia was removed as co-host earlier and Argentina was pulled out at the last minute as the country faces a surge in COVID-19 cases.   -  Getty Images

Like most sports events around the world, the Copa America, too, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The football championship was scheduled to commence in June last year, but given the devastation caused by the pandemic it was postponed.

The latest iteration, scheduled to be held in June-July this year, has hit a couple of early roadblocks. Barely a month before kick-off, Colombia was removed as co-host due to violent protests and political unrest in the nation. COVID-19 continues to wreck the country — another factor which went against Colombia.

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The month-long tournament was moved entirely to Argentina. There was a change in this plan too, as Argentina was stripped of hosting rights after the country entered a lockdown to combat a spike in COVID-19 cases.

South America’s premier tournament will now be held in Brazil, with no change in dates. Matches will be held without spectators, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro confirmed.

New host Brazil enters as the favourite. The powerhouse unit dominated the previous edition in 2019, going on an unbeaten run to win the title. In Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Brazil possess two strikers of the highest quality.

The duo will likely be joined by Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison — both scored in Brazil’s 3-1 win over Peru in the 2019 final — up front.

The well-rounded squad also consists of a strong backline. Thiago Silva, a consistent force for Chelsea, leads the defence. Marquinhos has raised his stock with great performances for Paris Saint-Germain and also presents a potent attacking threat. Real Madrid youngster Eder Militao is a versatile centre-back, who can also play as a right-back or defensive midfielder. In Ederson (Manchester City) and Alisson Becker (Liverpool), coach Tite has two fine goalkeepers to choose from.

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Though among the list of perennial favourites, Argentina does not have a great recent record. The side last won the tournament in 1993, and has finished runner-up four times since (2004, 2007, 2015 and 2016).

The team boasts of tremendous attacking prowess, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria prowling the final third. Slotted in Group ‘A’ alongside Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, Argentina should cruise through to the knockout rounds. Argentina is helmed by caretaker manager Lionel Scaloni.

Despite recent disappointments, Uruguay enters the field as the most successful team in the history of the championship. Once again, Uruguay will depend heavily on the star pair of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Suarez is on top of the world, having recently helped Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title. Cavani is also on song, going on a goal-scoring spree at Manchester United. Suarez and Cavani have to come good if Uruguay, having exited in the quarterfinal stage last time, hopes to win a first title since 2011.

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Chile, the 2015 and 2016 champion, could emerge as the dark horse. Inter Milan striker Alexis Sanchez will lead the charge. The squad also includes Blackburn forward Ben Brereton, who was born in England. Brereton became eligible to represent Chile as his mother was born there.

In a surprise move, Colombia has not included James Rodriguez in the squad. Rodriguez was hampered by injuries for Everton this season, but was expected to get fit and be ready for the Copa America.

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