Following the previous article that previewed Group A, this one takes a closer look at Group B.
Group B of the 2011 edition of the Copa América is made up of five-time World Champions Brazil, 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists Paraguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
World Ranking: 3
Star player: Neymar
The current Brazilian side is one going through a period of transition under new coach Mano Menezes following their elimination at the hands of eventual finalists Netherlands at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Brazilian football will always remain strong as it seems to have a production wheel of excellent young players. At the moment the team is still in the process of finding its traditional samba identity, something that was to a large extent taken away from them under the coaching of previous coach Dunga. The Brazilian team for the tournament will probably be a young one with a host of players waiting to be handed the opportunity to step up to become Brazil’s next superstar. They include Shaktar Donetsk’s “brilliant Brazilians” Willian, Douglas Costa, Luiz Adriano and Jadson as well as Santos’ amazingly talented duo of Neymar and Ganso. These are exciting times in Brazilian football and along with the inclusion of some of the more experienced hands, they are likely to finish as winners of Group B.
World Ranking: 23
Star player: Lucas Barrios
Paraguay has become a consistent performer on the international stage in the past decade and have qualified for the past four consecutive FIFA World Cups. Some impressive performances at the 2010 World Cup saw them eliminated by eventual champions Spain in a tightly contested quarterfinal game. In Oscar Cardozo and Lucas Barrios Paraguay have two strikers that have had excellent seasons with their clubs with Barrios helping Borussia Dortmund to winning the Bundesliga title and Oscar Cardozo contributing to Befica’s run into the Europa League semifinal. Considering this, Paraguay will probably join Brazil and qualify for the quarterfinals.
World Ranking: 56
Star player: Luis Antonio Valencia
Ecuador missed out in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after having qualified for two consecutive World Cups in 2002 and 2006. Although Ecuador do not have many well-known players, most of which play in Ecuador’s domestic league, parallels have often been drawn in the way that they play with that of Brazil. Therefore it can realistically be expected that Ecuador will be competitive in all their group matches and may, depending on results and standings in Groups A and C, find themselves sneaking through to the quarterfinal stage as one of the best two third placed teams.
World Ranking: 67
Star player: Ronald Vargas
Venezuela is the second-lowest ranked team at the 2011 Copa América only ahead of Bolivia. Much the same as with Ecuador, most of the Venezuelan players ply their trade in their domestic league and are pretty much unknown. In Ronald Vargas they have a striker that has had an excellent season for Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League and he is likely to be their main threat. Venezuela will definitely compete passionately, but they can realistically be expected to be eliminated at the first hurdle.
Venezuela vs. Ecuador – 9 July 2011, Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena
Brazil can be expected to win Group B with relative ease and that Paraguay will join them in the quarterfinal as automatic qualifiers. Ecuador may, depending on results and standings in Groups A and C, find themselves sneaking through to the quarterfinal stage as one of the best two third placed teams.
The next article in the series will take a closer look at Group C.