EURO 2016: MY QUARTER FINAL PREDICTIONS

This year’s European Championship has presented stories to fill the history books for many a years, some have criticized the idea of having 24 teams in the tournament, but the likes of Iceland and Wales have proven that they truly deserve to be among Europe’s Elite.

A 75% performance from me in the round of 16 has given me the increased desire to try my hand on the quarter final pairings, here are my predictions;

EURO 2016: Quarter Final predictions

Thursday, June 30

Poland vs. Portugal — Marseille

In what has been a weird tournament for both sides, with Portugal qualifying for the second round without winning a group game and their only real shot on goal which came in the 117th minute of their round of 16 game against Croatia leading to the winning goal and saw them progress at the expense of one of the better teams in the tournament, the Cristiano Ronaldo led team somehow find themselves not only in the quarter finals but in a favorable side of the draws that if carefully managed, could see them get to the finals.

ronaldo

For the Poles, they needed penalties to see off a hard fighting Switzerland and top marks man Robert Lewandowski is yet to find the back of the net after four games.

lewandowski

Is this the game Ronaldo achieves immortality at the Euros and maybe go a step further by breaking Portugal’s trophy drought or is this the one where Lewandowski finally comes to the party. I expect a tight and not too eventful game as we kick-off the quarter final fixtures.

Prediction: Portugal to win in 90mins

Friday, July 1st

Wales vs. Belgium — Lille

The Welsh have done well in their first major tournament in ages, impressive in the group stages and doing what they need to do in the second round with the aid of an own goal.

belgium

For the Belgians, they seem to have finally found their rhythm with an impressive display against Hungary with star player and captain Eden Hazard bringing back the form which saw him win the PFA award two seasons ago in England. It will be recalled that both sides met in the qualifiers where Wales surprisingly took 4 points off the Belgians.

bale

This is a game where two star names (and likely club teammates next season) will be on focus, its Gareth Bale’s Wales up against Eden Hazard’s Belgium with the back-up cast in the form of Aaron Ramsey and Kevin De Bryne also bound to have a say. The Welsh will be tidy and spirited but the Belgians will dominate possession and pray Lukaku has the right boots on this time around.

Prediction: Belgium to win

Saturday, July 2nd

Germany vs. Italy — Bordeaux

This is easily the biggest game of this round, defending World cup champions up against the slayer of the defending European Champions.

The Italian team does the Mafia job exceptionally, lead by a maverick in Antonio Conte, he has been able to build a system where every players role is defined and played out to the latter, his tactics which saw Spain’s creative players closed out and unable to influence the game, he has created a spirit of efficiency and adaptation to his squad, but for all that Conte has done, the lack of quality in his side still shone on several occasion in the game against Spain with missed chances which could have killed off the game earlier.

low bastian

For the Germans, the machine seems to have finally gotten well oiled, a commanding performance against Slovakia, who prior to that game had put up a decent shift defensively, but the change of tactics by Joachim Low which saw Mario Gomez recalled to the starting 11 brought a balance to the side with Julian Draxler dictating play and scoring a beauty himself.

Antonio-Conte

 

The Italians have been enjoying the underdogs tag thus far in the tourney and after seeing off Spain, a victory over Germany will send Conte flying over the technical bench but with injuries to key players in the midfield like De Rossi, he may have to come up with some hard changes yet again. The Germans have shown that they can mix it, they can be fluid when they need to, they can play possession if the opposition allows and they can also chose to break on the counter especially with players like Ozil and Draxler upfront. It promises to be yet another interesting game and this might stretch beyond the regular 90mins.

Prediction- Germany to edge it

Sunday, July 3rd

France vs. Iceland — Paris

The last time the French played a game in this tournament was on a Sunday and it turned out to be a good day though they had to do it the hard way courtesy two Antoine Griezmann goals, for the Iceland, this is heaven on earth after upsetting England in the round of 16, and no matter what happens at this stage, a public holiday awaits the tiny Island.

Having nothing to lose makes the Iceland team a dangerous side but I fully expect the French to roll past on this one.

Prediction- France to win in 90mins

Ike Shorunmu joins Ikorodu United

Former Super Eagles and Shooting Stars goalie and goal keeper’s trainer; Ike Shorunmu has signed with newly promoted and relegation threatened, Nigerian Professional Football League Side; Ikorodu United as their new goal keeper’s trainer. The announcement was made late Tuesday evening by the club, this appointment is part of the club’s ongoing restructuring aimed at ensuring that they survive relegation to the Nigerian National League at the first time of asking.

As we are all aware, Ikorodu United announced the engagement of  Dutch coach, Theo De Jong in a bid to get out of its relegation struggles. Ikorodu United are currently on 11 points from 21 matches; 16 points separate the Oga Boys from 16th place.

The Club has also announced the employment of Shakiru Giwa as an assistant coach in their new structure going forward.

 

** Pictures courtesy theyesng.com and bellanaija.com

WHICH WAY FOR THE NPFL?

FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Playing football under flood flights on a cool evening can be very exhilarating to the fans as the hot weather witnessed during the day would have considerably reduce to the barest minimum. This is what the fans experienced  at the  ultra-modern Godswill Akpabio International Stadium when Akwa United played Nasarawa United on the 25th of September 2015 in what has gone down in history as the first official night league match broadcast live on TV to millions of viewers across the continent. The League Management Company under the leadership of the Nigerian Football Federation’s second Vice-President, Alhaji Shehu Dikko has made tremendous effort in making the league attractive to fans all over the nation. This must be applauded and it is a very positive growth in our league. Fast forward to 2016 season and we have seen how fans have thronged the stadia in different cities, from Uyo to Lagos to Enugu for these friday night games.

Displaying IMG_20160624_164239.jpgDisplaying IMG_20160624_164239.jpgDisplaying IMG_20160624_164239.jpgNight game image

The management of Rangers international  FC of Enugu had to specifically request for more night games from the LMC and their official TV broadcast partners, Supersport after seeing the massive turn out of fans when they held their own night league match in Enugu on the 22nd of April this year.
Need i say more about the tremendous benefits night league games bring to the league? Apart from raking in more money from  the gates, fans can also relate with the excitement of the league, get involved with support for their darling teams and by so doing bringing the league closer to them. We know that the average Nigerian football fan has a team or two they support in the English Premier league and will always want to watch them play rather than watch a local league match that falls on  the same time belt; with the advent of these night games, there is an ample opportunity for the fans to gain on both sides if the local league match on TV is played at night. If the objective of the Nigeria Professional Football League is to grow the game, there is no gain saying to the fact that night games will be suitable for the fans.

ON IKORODU UNITED PALAVA

Too many spoon they say spoil the broth. Such is the case of the Ikorodu United who have had four managers in less than a year. Yes, football is about firing and hiring but they have had one too many. Theodosius Jacob de Jong has a lot of work to do with his new club. I think its even way beyond him for this season. What they need to start doing now is to plan for the future and how fast they can navigate their way back from the Nigeria National league. They need to retain some of their key players and to do it, they would need a lot of convincing. But if the proper incentives are put into place, these marquee players can stay and fight for promotion back to the top flight.

Ikorodu United
The new manager needs to start planning life in the lower tier more than anything else. Forget all the talks about trying to steer them away from relegation, its a little too late for them. The 68- year old coach can, with his experience with lowly clubs that he has managed in the past (Willem 11, FC Zwolle, SC Cambuur and Go Ahead Eagles), lead the ‘oga boys’ back to the top flight if given the free hand and conducive environment.

THUGS IN THE NPFL

The MFM vs Shooting Stars match last weekend was an eyesore to viewers and spectators at large and the league body must stem this cancerous trend before it takes our league backward. Punishment meted out to these erring clubs must be followed duly and culprits should be apprehended to face the law. Enough of the carrot; its time for the stick. LMC must be firm on decisions taken to further forestall these events from happening in the future.
And for the NFF Referee committee who in their wisest decision decided to retire Alaba Abiodun who officiated the match and was clearly assaulted by the home team, I think that is way too harsh. He may have been reprimanded last season for bad officiating but retiring him is the least thing expected from the football house. I hope punishments meted out to offenders will be in line with how grievous their offences are.

The Dream is free, the Hustle is sold separately…Selah!!!

EURO 2016: MY ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS

EURO 2016: My round of 16 predictions

Saturday, June 25

Switzerland vs. Poland — Saint-Etienne

Switzerland finished second in Group A behind host nation France, whilst Poland also finished second from Group C behind tournament favorites Germany on 7 points respectively. Poland only recorded two goals in the group stages with the leading marksman for the Poles, Robert Lewandowski yet to get on the score sheets.

lewandoski

I do not see much drama coming from this game especially with the tentative note the tournament has taken, hopefully the 2nd round will set things off proper. This game may go into extra-time and possibly penalties.

Verdict: I give the Poles a slight edge.

Wales vs. Northern Ireland — Paris

The battle of the Brits (let’s not get into the EU debate), Wales have turned up as one of the bright sparks of this tournament, topping their group which included rivals England with star player Gareth Bale already in the race for player of the tournament with 3goals in 3games.

Bale wales

For Northern Ireland, a second round place is enough reasons to declare a public holiday and for a team that has won none of its last eight games against Wales, drawing 4 and losing 4, this is almost certainly the end of the road for them.

Verdict: Wales to win in 90 minutes

Croatia vs. Portugal — Lens

For me, the 2nd round officially kicks off with this game, Croatia who have been one of the better teams thus far with Luka Modric running things in the middle of the pack up against his club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team who are probably the biggest beneficiary of this new 24-team format progressing to the next round despite failing to win a single game in the group stages and finishing third in a group that they were odds favorite to win.

Portugal

With Cristiano finally getting on the score sheet in the game against Hungary, the fear for opponents now is, are the shackles off for the three time world footballer of the year?
Croatia topped Group D including ending a long unbeaten run at the Euros for Spain despite resting couple of their players. This is a well balanced fixture where goals are expected considering the attacking talents on display and Portugal’s poor back line.

Croatia has however not won a knockout game in any major tournament  for 18 years and whilst this is a game that could go anyway, I expect Ronaldo to continue his goal-scoring form and edge Portugal into the quarter finals.

Verdict:Portugal to win

Sunday, June 26

France vs. Ireland — Lyon

The last time both sides met in 2009 en-route to qualifying for the World cup in South Africa, it ended bitterly following Thierry Henry’s controversial goal.
7 years later, in a totally different scenario and team make-up, France has a chance to go a step further to hosting and winning while the Irish have revenge on their minds.

payet

Payet has proven to be worth the pre- tourney hype, the Irish will come with all the passion, commitment and brute but the French have enough in their arsenal to roll by on this one.

Verdict :France to win

Germany vs. Slovakia — Lille

The Germans haven’t been near impressive, struggled with formations and players playing below their usual level, Slovakia has played as a unit thus far especially defensively but say what you want of the Germans, they have made the semi- finals of their last 6 major tournaments and I expect no shock from this game.

bastian

However, we must not forget that the Slovaks defeated Germany en-route to the Euros in a game that raised doubts on how far this German side can go in this tournament.

Verdict: The Slovaks will defend with all they got but Germany to win.

Hungary vs. Belgium — Toulouse

Hungary, another team that has thrown up couple of eye catching performances especially with their attacking brand of football against a Belgium team that despite its potential looks very unconvincing

Hungry 1733219-36662613-1600-900

It is one of those games that promises to be open and might give way to goals aplenty. This is another chance for the golden generation of Belgian football to prove that there is substance to its noise whilst being wary of a free Hungarian team led by their exceptional captain Balazs Dzsudsak.

Verdict: Another game that can swing either way but I do expect Belgium to go through.

Monday, June 27

 Italy vs. Spain — Saint-Denis

Easily the game of the 2nd round, a repeat of the last edition’s final which saw Spain winning the trophy for the third time. The Italians came into this years’ Euros on the back of many pundits claiming the dearth of talent in the squad and a manager set to exit, but two games in and they were looking the part; efficient, decisive, stingy at the back and quite tidy with their passes which is everything the typical Italian team presents at tournaments. Spain on the other hand impressed in their opening two games with striker Alvaro Morata looking the part, though they suffered a shock defeat in the hands of Croatia; that can always be tied to complacency knowing they had qualified.

chiellini Italy

This is a pretty close game as Italy manager, Antonio Conte has proven that tactics at-times triumph talent and with a pretty strong backline lead by Bonucci and Chiellini, they may not need to score much to progress but Spain didn’t walk into their favorite status, they earned it and if the likes of Iniesta, Silva and Fabregas have their day, they could be almost unstoppable.

 

Verdict: Spain to edge this, may go into extra-time.

England vs. Iceland — Nice

Two World Wars, One World cup, One EU referendum and the little matter of a tiny nation Iceland, this should be easy, right? Despite qualifying with a tidy record, the English struggled against a poor Russian team and couldn’t break a disciplined Slovakia side. They have had more possession in most of their games but creativity in the final third has been a headache for Roy Hodgson’s side. Iceland qualifying second in a group that had Portugal is no mean feat with a memorable victory over Austria in the last minutes of the final group game which sent the nation into a frenzy.

rooney england
For Iceland, making this round is an achievement, but that doesn’t mean they will lie down for England to roll past them, the three lions have to find that creative spark in the midfield, need to get Harry Kane going and should be ready not to let their heads down if things are not going their way for long periods in the game.

Verdict: Slim victory for England

WHERE DOES DALEY BLIND FIT IN MOURINHO’S ARMY?

The Euros is in full swing after a long season and attention has been switched from Club to Country allegiance, familiar faces who have drawn battles lines playing for their respective teams now coming together to defend the national honor. Amidst the Euros however, club activities have refused to be totally silenced, with clubs hiring new managers and major transfers already taking place or rumored to be on the verge of taking piece, hence this article takes a step back from the Euros and focuses yet again on the bread and butter of league football, especially as it concerns a player who is absent from the tournament.


Sometime last year, I wrote an article on the need for Manchester United and then manager Louis Van Gaal to hurriedly sort out the conundrum that had come with defining star player Wayne Rooney’s ‘best position’. This came off the back of the teams return to the Champions League after the Dutch manager’s first year in charge. Whilst there is no denying that a fit and inform Wazza is an asset to any team, without a properly defined role, he becomes a liability as witnessed largely in the just concluded season where he performed below his usual standards and calls were even made for him to be dropped from the ongoing Euros which sensibly Roy Hodgson declined.
Yet again, there has been a change at the helm of affairs at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has been announced with so much frenzy and more covering than even the Copa America commands. Pundits have highlighted the new manager’s strengths, his shortcomings, how he seeks to rebuild the team and his chances at succeeding at a club he seemed to have desired to be manager for a long while now.
So when news broke recently that Jose had already began plans to build his own United army, and in order to attain this, some players have to be sold, it didn’t come as much of a surprise but one name which has drawn mixed feelings from fans and observers is that of versatile Dutch defender, Daley Blind.
The 26 year old defender was one of the teams’ most consistent performers last season which climaxed with an FA Cup medal to his name. Daley Blind started his United’s career as a defensive midfielder/ left back but from playing 45 minutes as Centre back in pre-season following injuries to Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to featuring in 55 games in all competitions this season with over 95% of those games as a Centre Back alongside Chris Smalling, the duo (with the help of Player of the season David De gea) helped United to Joint best defense in the league conceding just 35 goals, an average of 0.92 per game, keeping 18 clean sheets. Daley Blind is not the biggest or quickest of defenders but his versatility (which is fast becoming a dying feature of modern day footballers), vision, calmness, ball passing ability, and intelligence in reading the game are some of the attributes that has endeared him into the hearts of United fans with one of his highlight of the season been the way he handled Everton’s Romelu Lukaku during the 2nd leg of their league game.
However, many United faithful including the writer seem caught in a quagmire, as despite him being a likeable player, many do not see him as the solution to United’s defensive worries long-term, and it seems the new manager shares the same view following his first recruit in the form of Villareal defender, Eric Bailey. He has also been known to favor quick and bully like defenders in the past with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Materazzi, Terry, Zouma and Pepe featuring at his respective teams.
With Luke Shaw set for a return in the coming season and largely viewed as United and England’s long term left back, if he regains his form and manages to stay fit, the left back role may not be one that would welcome Daley Blind anytime soon.


His midfield has also featured really strong and physical players and with a rumored transfer war chest, that makes it one area he will surely be fortifying to compete with the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin who had a below par debut season and would be seeking to make amends in the new one, a returning Bastian Schweinsteiger who has a role to play if fit, veteran Michael Carrick who was recently awarded a one year contract extension and even a Wayne Rooney who ended the season as a deep playing midfielder, chances are Jose may choose to continue with this experiment especially if Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives to support burgeoning talent Marcus Rashford in the attack, the competition and preferences may likely stifle Blinds’ playing time in the middle of the pack.
So where is Daley Blind’s best position? Can he evolve into yet another previously un-deployed role? Will he be content with a place on the bench for long- spells in the season? These are all questions that Jose Mourinho will be answering in the coming weeks, so while the likes of Ashley Young, Maroune Fellaini, Darmian, Ander Herrera, Memphis Depay might be shown the exit door with little or no regrets, a Blind exit would see a few tears from fans, his talent will surely be in high demand across the top leagues but like James Rodriquez who seems not to fit in Zidane and Madrid’s style despite his obvious brilliance, such may just be the story of Daley ‘Versatile’ Blind.

Are France Hosting to win again? (My Euro 2016 Preview)

I cannot believe, its been four whole years since we saw a true finals master class from La Roja (Spain) as they put the Azzurris (Italy) to the sword in such a devastating manner that had previously not been seen in a show piece final. Well that Spanish side is four years older, a few of the members of that squad have either retired or are sunbathing in the Middle East. This year, the French look very much like they are destined to win another tournament they are hosting, just like in 1984 and 1998. Now I am not one to compare eras or squads; but this is a talented French squad with age on its side; its average age is probably lower than the other two sides and those sides were either at their peak or nearing their peak.

In 1984,France had the magnificent Michel Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse, Joel Bats and Luis Fernandez (the youngest player in the side at that time); now for me this finally achieved what they were capable of after a great showing at the 1982 World Cup in Spain; it was only ideal they won the competition as host.

In 1998, France had the legendary Zinedane Zidane, Laurent Blanc, current French manager, Didier Deschamps as captain; young trio of Patrick Vieria, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet; it was a team that was on the treshold of greatness especially with the sprinkling of young talent from their highly rated football academy. This French team like its elder brothers from 1984 had also gotten knocked out at the semi final stage of a major competition only two years earlier; so there were some similarities with both sides.

Do, I think this French side can win it on home soil and replicate what their predecessors had done; I think they can; however on like the class of 1984 and 1998; this particular French team lacks the solidity in defense those two teams had, I worry about the French back four and I feel that this is their Achilles heel.

So, if its not the French; who else can win the Euros, is it the Germans, the Spaniards, Italians, Belgium maybe or can the English finally deliver a prize to their ever demanding public. Of course, there are some outsiders; the likes of Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, Czech Republic and Croatia;who would be looking to tap into the spirit of the Greeks from 2004, also looking to win it.

If you ask me, I am leaning towards the Germans, forget whatever issues they may have in defense; I think they have a very capable bunch at the back and of course they are what we call a proper tournament team.

 

 

The Centenary Copa America (My Preview)

A century is a really long time and I must say if any gathering whatsoever has had the opportunity to be in existence for that long a time, it deserves to be celebrated. Yes, we just had one Copa America last year with Chile winning on home soil; what’s the point of another one? Well, if there’s any reason besides the fact that we would be watching some of the best footballers in the world from that side of the plant in June instead of them lying on some pitch on holiday; I must say its a fabulous idea because we football buffs always whine during the off season out of nothing to do.

Another interesting factor is that the lads from the Americas will be battling for our attention on the Television screens as they go up against their European counterparts for premium television ratings and viewership; even though the time zones difference sorts that out. Even here in Nigeria; two rival cable companies have rights to one each as against one having rights to both; so expect a tug of war for the subscriber base.

I will be looking at the Centenary Copa America from a group by group perspective, picking the successful victors from each group; good thing this year is that with 16 teams; I avoid the tricky part of picking best placed third placed teams; hopefully my selection would leave hanging with egg all over my face.

Group A

The Host (USA) have had a rocky few years under the guidance of Jurgen Klinsmann; who has tried to make the USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) more attractive and appealing in the football they play and in their reception to the outside world especially American born players who may be plying their trade elsewhere. However, his reign has divided opinions somewhat and a vast number want him gone sooner rather than later. As Host you expect the US to navigate a very tricky group with seasoned campaigners; Colombia and Paraguay, even though Costa Rica have emerged as very competent and potentially tricky customers. However, the absence of Keylor Navas has to be a huge blow for the Costa Ricans and the tournament as a whole; this Costa Rica side are the banana skin of this group, if any one under estimates them, it will be at their peril.

Colombia and many of its superstars  have come off very underwhelming seasons; Jackson Martinez moved to China from Spain, James Rodriguez has become a bench warmer at Real; Radamel Falcao, probably doesn’t even know his way home not to talk of where the goal post is, Carlos Sanchez got relegated with Aston Villa and we can go on and on; however the likes of Carlos Bacca just came off a 18 goals league season in Italy playing in a poor AC Milan side; Cuadrado ended the season as a champion in Italy, so also Santiago Arias at PSV. Colombia have struggled since the successes achieved after the World Cup in Brazil and haven’t got going in the 2018 World Cup qualification series, lying in fifth position with three wins from six matches.

Paraguay are the draw specialist of the Copa, two editions ago; they went on a stalemate spree to find themselves in the final. They precisely haven’t recovered since the departure of Gerardo Martino, who instilled a discipline but expressive approach in the Paraguay side. Like every country with a golden generation; they failed to win anything of significance; but ensured they ruffled a few feathers and that is what I expect from them to do in this Copa.

Qualifiers from Group A: USA (only because they are Host) and Colombia; I won’t write off Costa Rica though.

Group B

This is a different Brazilian side attending the Copa with so many players pulling out with various kinds of injuries to the likes of Kaka and Luis Gustavo (who departs for personal reasons); however it still looks like a strong Jogo Bonito side. Dunga has faced criticism in his second coming as Brazil manager, if you ask me it was a surprise that he even returned to the helm, but Brazil needed a reboot, some kind of shock therapy after what happened at the last World Cup they hosted; why he won’t even consider Thiago Silva for a recall is an astonishing decision. Brazil have struggled in the World Cup qualifiers thus far and are currently placed sixth with only two wins so far; which has been disappointing.

Ecuador have been very impressive of late and this is a side that is full of raw pace all over the team; they have developed quite well and would be looking to improve their performances in the Copa; where their best finish is a semi final berth. Ecuador are currently second, tied on points Uruguay at the top of World Cup qualifying; the likes of Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia along with Jefferson Montero; provide a huge outlet with their pace and of course Felipe Caicedo will be a huge miss for them due to injury.

Peru have had two really good Copa America campaigns in the last two editions with third place finishes when they were expected to struggle and not progress. They do have a chance in this group, but its just a slim chance they have as they have only had one win from six in World Cup qualifying; so I do not expect them to get through the group.

Haiti as far as I am concerned are at the Copa to site see and have a preparation for their respective vacations; they would enjoy the experience and seek to ruffle some feathers.

Qualifiers from Group B: Brazil and Ecuador to go through

Group C

The Reggae Boys of Jamaica would be looking to tap into the experience of Wes Morgan, fresh from winning a Premier League title with Leicester City , but I doubt if that would have any effect on their progress in this year’s Copa America. Mexico are a team I have come to admire over the years; this is a matured side and I really feel they have a chance to get to the Semi Finals; Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) has been in the form of his life after a new lease of life in Bayer Leverkusen. The likes of Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez are coming off really good seasons in Europe.

Uruguay are one of my favorites to win this Copa America once again; they asides from Argentina potentially have the most fearsome strike force in the tournament, it would be interesting to see how they cope without Luis Saurez for the first couple of games, hopefully it would not be too late when he returns. I think Uruguay are well equipped to win this especially as they are well built from the back with the Atletico duo of Godin and Gimenez.  With Uruguay top of World Cup qualifying they can approach the Copa with confidence to take their title haul to 16 as the most successive team in Copa America history.

Venezuela are bottom of World Cup qualifying and I just cannot see them making any meaningful impact on this stage as they continue to struggle to find or come about wins and of course there is the potential over reliance on Salomon Rondo.

Qualifiers from Group C: Uruguay and Mexico to go through

Group D

Argentina are quite overwhelming favorites to win the Copa America, it is a huge opportunity to win a major international trophy for the first time since their 1993 triumph in Ecuador. The story of Argentina has been that of many narrow misses with final appearances in 2004, 2007 and 2015. The Albiceleste have come too close to winning major honours that it has become an embarrassment when they fail to deliver at each crunch time. This is the Copa of redemption especially for Captain Lionel Messi; hopefully he is good mental shape with all the of field issues lately; but the maestro must wheel Argentina to the finish line to secure his legacy as a true great of the global game.

Chile are defending champions that have lost their way; as soon as Jose Sampaoli departed Chile have been on the decline, this has not been helped by some of their stars seemingly losing steam and form after the exhaustion of the last Copa America. It is a huge opportunity to show that last year;s win on home soil was not a fluke and that they possess the resources to repeat and successfully defend the Copa America.

Bolivia and Panama are the the other teams in the group; whilst Panama have witnesses some improvements with their performances in the Gold Cup; Bolivia just seem to be in a consistent slide. Gone are the days when taking opponents to high altitude in La Paz  provided an undue advantage; nowadays they get beaten at home and as we speak are second bottom in World Cup Qualifying.

Qualifiers from Group D: Argentina and Chile

Quarter Finals

By Virtue of how the teams are drawn, these are my potential match ups as the knock out round kicks in:

USA V BRAZIL

COLOMBIA V ECUADOR

URUGUAY V CHILE

ARGENTINA V MEXICO

SEMI FINALS

BRAZIL V URUGUAY

ARGENTINA V ECUADOR

SSC Napoli's Argentine striker Gonzalo H

FINALS

ARGENTINA V URUGUAY (In the end I really do think Argentina will finally get crowned Copa America champions for the first time in 23 years)

Tournament Top Scorer: Gonzalo Higuian