From July 1st to July 24th, 12 sides, including CONCACAF wild cards Mexico and Costa Rica (a necessary addition in a continent lacking top sides), will play in eight Argentine cities in order to make it to the Buenos Aires final. Few doubt that the hosts will lock horns with current holders Brazil in what the Argentine supporters are already relishing as a chance to avenge defeats in the last two finals.
Winning this competition, however, would also be very significant for Messi and co given the doubts about the best player in the world’s galvanising potential. As unfair as it might sound, Messi has been singled out by media and public as a failure in the national team, so the days he will spend playing in front of his countrymen could prove a special opportunity to win hearts and minds for the upcoming qualifiers.
One should not forget that Uruguay will be looking to capitalize on last year’s amazing performance in South Africa. Their continental pedigree demands respect: alongside Argetina, they are the Copa biggest winners, with 14 titles, even though the last one was at home, in 1995 – Brazil have eight. After a great qualifying campaign for South Africa and a very decent tournament, where even mighty Spain struggled against them, Paraguay will also be looking for some giant killing.