The Copa America 2016 is set to begin on Friday June 3 and here you’ll find everything (probably not EVERYthing, but still some very interesting things) you want to know about the oldest continental football tournament there is.
16 participants For the first time ever, there will be 16 teams participating in the upcoming edition: the traditional 10 countries from the CONMEBOL and 6 CONCACAF members. Of the latter the USA an Mexico were given “free” entrance and the other teams had to qualify winning their respective sub-region championships (Costa Rica and Jamaica) or win a play-off (Haití and Panamá). Here’s the all time table with the 16 teams highlighted:
6 invited teams So, this year’s Copa will have 6 invited teams. The best ever result of an invited team is runners-up (Mexico in 1993 in the first edition with invited teams, and also in 2001). In total 6 countries have played as an invite summing a total of 19 participations: they reached the second round in 12 of those 19 instances.
50/50 for the host The Copa America has been played 44 times of which in 41 editions it had a fixed host. In a bit over half (21) of those cases the hosting nation also won the cup. You could say home advantage is key… The most extreme case is Uruguay who won 7 out of 7 times when organizing the event. Chile have also hosted the cup 7 times, but only won it for the first time last year.
Only 4 winners away from home Turning the previous stat around we see that 8 different teams have won the cup, but only 4* managed to do so not playing in their own country: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
*Peru once won the Copa America without being host of the tournament, in 1975, but that tournament was played without a fixed host and home and away legs in each stage.
Positive balance Argentina is the only team to hold a positive balance against all South-American (let’s build in a limiting factor to make this stat work) opponents they have played, here goes the list. Only their H2H agains the USA is not positive:
20 copas in a row Not Argentina, not Brazil, not Uruguay, but Paraguay has the current longest streak of participations. Since 1959 they did not miss any of the 19 editions. And they will now participate for the 20th time in a row. A record. Uruguay participated in 18 consecutive cups from 1926 to 1959.
Average age Here’s a list of the average age per roster, with Venezuela having the youngest team and the Chileans having the oldest squad:
Collecting airmiles The USA is a large country and someone picked the locations for the group games so that air travel is maximized, which leads to the following distances for each of the 16 teams. That is from their capital to the first game, to the second and the third (all numbers in kilometres). Uruguay and Paraguay are the teams that will travel the most during the Copa group phase.
9 foreign mangers Eight of the 16 teams have a foreigner at the head of their team. There are 5 Argentines managers managing another country (Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador). 1 Colombian (Mexico) and three Europeans (Haiti, Jamaica, United States). The last time a European manager won the tournament? The English Jack Greenwell led hosts Peru to the trophy in 1939. In the history only 4 coaches not leading their home team won the tournament: Millan (Spanish, with Argentina in 1927), Greenwell (1939), Alvim (1963) and Sampaoli (2015).
3 managers know how to score Only 2 out of the 16 managers have actually scored a goal in the Copa America themselves: Brazil manager Dunga found the net once (the opening goal vs Colombia in 1997), as did his colleague in charge of Peru, Ricardo Gareca (1-0 for Argentina over Brazil in 1983). Julio Baldivieso (Bolivia’s manager) scored two goals at the Copa of 1997 (against Perú and Uruguay).
One winner From the 16 managers at the Copa America 2016 Uruguay manager Oscar Tabárez is the only one to have lifted the trophy as manager. Tabárez, who has been at Uruguay for the lat 10 years, did that in 2011. Here all managers:
Third team lucky This edition Hernán Daríó Gómez becomes the first manager ever to lead 3 different teams at the Copa América: he was in charge of Colombia in 1995, 1997 and 2011, and Ecuador in 2001 and 2004 and will now try to take Panamá to the title.
Misery Mascherano is one of the greatest Argentine players of all time but he has a fair amount of records at the Copa America. Let’s start off with a positive note: from all players still active he is the player with most Copa America games played (21, 12W 7D 2L) and he needs only 2 more to become the Argentine player with most Copa appearances (passing Javier Zanetti with 22). But then:
He is also the player with the most yellow cards in Copa history (9). Two of them came in the same game (in the 2011 quarterfinals against Uruguay). Mascherano is also the only player to have lost 3 Copa America finals (2004, 2007 and 2015), making it 4 in a row when adding the 2014 FIFA World Cup final..
8 goals to go The current all-time top scorers are Zizinho (Brazil) and Mendéz (Argentina) with 17 goals each. The player that is ‘closest’ to surpass the two currently finds himself on the 22nd spot of all-time goal scorers: it’s Copa America legend Paolo Guerrero with 10 goals. Guerrero deserves his own paragraph, but here are the top goal scorers that are playing the Copa America 2016:
*take Santa Cruz out of this list as he won’t he playing!
Paolo Guerrero Maybe not the most prominent player in the world of football but definitely a Copa America legend. Last year he became the first player since 1924 (Petrone) to win the Copa America top scorers award in consecutive editions and he is also the only man to have ever scored a hat-trick in a Copa America knock-out match (quarterfinals and more advanced stages). Twice.
17 years old The youngest player that will be playing this Copa is Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic. He made his debut this year and on May 28 he became the youngest player ever to score for the United States (see here and a strong play vs Ecuador here).
At the Copa America he surely won’t break the record for youngest even goal scorer. That was Colombian Johnier Montaño at the age of 16 years and 172 days (in 1991 versus Argentina).
The Copa’s youngest players (all players that are under 20 years of age):
Liga MX and MLS on the rise The league that provides most players to the Copa America 2015 is Liga MX: 35 of all 368 (9,5%) players earn their salaries in the first division of Mexico. Spanish La Liga comes second (28 players) and third are the British Premier League and the MLS (27).
Bolivia is the team that brings most players from their own league to the tournament: 18, followed by Peru with 16 and Mexico with 14.
From ALL over the world The 368 players currently registered for the Copa America Centenario play at clubs divided over no less than FORTY-EIGHT countries, the most notable ones are: Dominican Republic, Finland, Iceland, India, Kuwait, Norway and Vietnam.
And from ALL competitions There will be quite a few famous players at the Copa America Centenario, the stars on the billboards, the ones that are used for the marketing of this comercializad edition of the Copa America. However, on the other hand, there are some players that won’t get as much attention, but let’s name them here before we get to know them for taking post-match selfies with Messi, James, Luis Suárez and others:
Max Hilaire (30, Haiti): plays in the French Amateur Championships for SO Cholet who hold a stadium for 700 spectators.
Judelín Aveska (28, Haiti): came back from Mohun Bagan in India to Argentina, where he once was under contract with River Plate, to play for fourth division club Atlético Uruguay, but did not make an appearance.
Mikel Villanueva (23, Venezuela): 1,90m tall centre back who played for Atletico Malagueño (Malaga B) last year, in the third division of Spain.
Duwayne Kerr (29, Jamaica): transferred from Norway to Icelandic team Stjarnan this year. Has played 4 games so far and did not lose a single one of them. Sjarnan lead the league, which is not interrupted for the Copa America.
Jean Eudes Maurice (29, Haiti): once played for PSG (1 goal!), then went to Chennaiyin in India, Nea Salamis at Cyprus and is now player of Sai Gon in Vietnam. Will probably play as forward with Kervens Belfort (from Turkish second division club 1461 Trabzon) at the Copa America.
And a cheat sheet for your copa america preparations: