Copa America power rankings: Which teams have the best shot at hoisting the trophy?

With European football competition taking a summer respite, all attention is on the 12 teams that will be competing in the Copa America. The opener is set for today, so let’s take a look at the competing teams and rank them accordingly.

    1. Argentina- Like Brazil, this is a team with each player at the top of their game. Up front, if you can stop Messi, how do you slow down Aguero or Di Maria? After losing in the finals of the World Cup last year, this represents the first tournament Argentina has competed in since that time, and suffice it to say that La Albiceleste will be motivated to return to Buenos Aires with the trophy. Gerardo Martino resigned his managerial post at Barcelona to accept the job of manager, and nothing short of a victory in the finals will suffice. And with the quality of their players coupled with the memories of the World Cup final, expect Argentina to be hoisting the Cup on July 4.
    2. Brazil- They may be ranked fifth worldwide, but in this tournament, that will not preclude Canarinho from competing in the finals of the tournament. Led by manager Dunga and captained by Neymar, this is a team that will rise to the level of their competition. When a national team has qualified for every World Cup and has won more times than any other country, expectations are always high. With a squad filled with talent, expect Brazil to be playing on July 4 in Santiago.
    3. Colombia- Making the jump to fourth spot in FIFA’s rankings, Colombia is a powerhouse that can no longer be ignored. Los Cafeteros have a well-balanced squad led by veteran manager Jose Pekerman and are captained by Radamel Falcao. Will this talent-laden team make it to the finals? It’s not likely, Falcao, while a fine player, has played sparingly this year for his club team and will not be able to perform up to his full potential. And judging by all the talent on the top-flight teams, it would take a complete team effort to advance to the finals. Los Cafeteros are not there quite yet.
    4. Uruguay- Losing Diego Forlan (retired from international play) and Luis Suarez (due to suspension) La Celeste will need to rely heavily on Edinson Cavani for putting the ball in the back of the net. Given that Cavani has only scored 27 goals in 73 caps for the national team, this would seem to be a tall order. El Matador did lead Paris Saint-Germain in goals this past season, but his supporting cast may not be ready for primetime. They are also a veteran team lacking a vital dose of youth. Like the World Cup in 2014, this is a team that can make a run but will not advance beyond the semi-finals.
    5. Chile- The host country is afforded a modicum of advantage, but at the end of the tournament the cream will rise to the top. Chile is a good football team, but as the tournament progresses they will be outplayed and outclassed by the top South American squads. Even if Alexis Sanchez, has a stellar tournament, the overall lack of depth of the Chileans will do them in.
    6. Mexico- El Tri are the highest ranked team in CONCACAF, but the competition is from CONMEBOL, and the road for Mexico ends here. While they are a much-improved team from where they were a couple of years ago, largely due to the managerial skills of Miguel Herrera, the offense still needs some tweaking and the midfield will not match up against the better South American teams in the tournament. Expect a good showing for El Tri overall, but the skill set of their Latin American brethren exceeds their own.
    7. Ecuador- Playing in Group A against Bolivia, Chile and Mexico, Ecuador can be seen as the third place team ahead of bottom feeder Bolivia. Mexico’s stock has risen since their 2014 World Cup play, and Chile has the added advantage of being the host country and playing in front of their fans. While there is every expectation that Ecuador will compete admirably in the tournament, one cannot see a path where El Tricolor can win, which they have never won before. Their two best performances were in 1959 and 1993 while playing on home soil. But with two best third-place teams advancing out of group play, expect Ecuador to be playing in a quarter-final match.
    8. Peru- As with Venezuela, Peru’s third-place finish in Group C will afford the players more vacation time. But they will likely get to compete in a quarter-final match, since the top two third-place teams are allowed to advance out of group play. Los Blanquirroja last won the Copa America in 1975, and forty years is a long time, yet they did manage to come in third place in 2011. It is hard to fathom how Peru can advance beyond the quarter-finals given the level of competition.
    9. Venezuela-With Brazil and Colombia in their group, advancing out of Group C would seem to be a monumental task for La Vinotinto. While most see this as a foregone conclusion, the real battle is for the third spot against Peru. While these two underachieving CONMEBOL squads may tie in their head-to-head match, the tiebreaker goal differential will favor Peru. Of course, both teams should be reserving their flight home early in order to get the cheapest price possible.
    10. Paraguay- Two of the teams in their group are Argentina and Uruguay, and they can consider themselves fortunate that they’re playing in their own continent, so the return trip back home will be relatively short. The good news for the Albirroja is that Jamaica is also playing in their group and will provide Paraguay with three points.
    11. Bolivia- FIFA has them ranked No. 85 and they play in a group which consists of Mexico, Ecuador and host country Chile. While the top three teams will be battling it out for two spots, Bolivia will have no such illusions. The last time El Verde won the Copa was in 1963, and they have not advanced beyond group play since 1997. Each group team will be out for goal differential in order to advance, making Bolivia’s position in the tournament all the more tenuous. Adios, Bolivia.
    12. Jamaica- Competing in Group B against Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, The Reggae Boyz will find themselves struggling against the best teams Latin America has to offer. While Jamaica is to be commended for garnering a spot in the tournament against stellar competition, it is likely that this CONCACAF team will be leaving Chile early and will fail to earn a point against some very tough CONMEBOL squads.