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Groups drawn for Copa América Centenario

22 February 2016

Four current Royals could be involved…

The draw for the group stages of the 2016 Copa América was made on Sunday evening at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City – just seven miles from the MetLife Stadium, where the final of the competition will be held.

And four players that are currently on the Royals’ books could be involved for their countries!

Unusually, the tournament is taking place in consecutive years, following last year’s 2015 edition in Chile.  This is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the formation of CONMEBOL (the South America football confederation) and the centenary of the inaugural Copa América.

Things have changed significantly since that 1916 competition – Uruguay were winners of the inaugural tournament, 14 years before the first World Cup took place, as they topped a four-team group ahead of Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

100 years on, the tournament has expanded to 16 teams for the first time – and by being hosted in USA, it is first occasion that it has been held outside South America.  The 10 CONMEBOL teams are joined by hosts USA as well as Mexico, Panama, Haita, Jamaica and Costa Rica.  USA vs Colombia kicks off the tournament on June 3rd, and the final takes place on 26th June – meaning the tournament partly overlaps Euro 2016.

Here is how the draw looks…

And here is how it affects our lads…

Midfielder Danny Williams, capped 19 times for the USMNT, will be pushing for a place in Jurgen Klinsmann’s host team for the upcoming tournament.  Midfield dynamo Williams has been absent with a short-term injury for the last two Royals matches, but had played in every game bar one up to that point, contributing six goals to date this season.  The USA weren’t involved in the 2015 edition – Mexico and Japan were the two invitational participants – but they will be hopeful of emerging from a group which features Paraguay, Colombia and fellow CONCACAF nation Costa Rica.  Their group games take place in Santa Clara, Chicago and Philadelphia – their best ever showing in the competition was a fourth-place finish in 1995.

Winger Paolo Hurtado is currently on loan in Portugal at Vitória de Guimarães – he made his debut on Sunday afternoon, coming off the bench for the final 10 minutes in a 3-3 draw against Braga.  Capped 25 times for his nation, 11 of which came during 2015, Hurtado will be hopeful of being involved again after helping the country to a third-place finish last year – although their current World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign is stuttering, with three defeats from four games.  Peru also took bronze in the previous tournament four years earlier in 2011 – their two tournament wins came in 1939 and 1975, long before Hurtado was born.  Seattle, Glendale and Foxborough will be host venues for their games against Haiti, Ecuador and Brazil respectively.

It has been a busy time on the international stage for our Reggae Boyz Garath McCleary and Michael Hector.  As well as being involved in both the Copa América and Gold Cup last summer – creating history by making the final in the latter – Jamaica also kept their ambitions of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup alive by the skin of their teeth last September.  It needed an 89th-minute goal by then-Derby striker Simon Dawkins to finally overturn Nicaragua and seal a 4-3 aggregate win to take them through to the next stage.  Matches against Venezuela (Chicago), Mexico (Pasadena) and Uruguay (Santa Clara) offer a tough challenge for the Royals duo and their countrymen; Jamaica’s involvement in the 2015 Copa América was their first entrance to the tournament in its history.  They were selected for the Centenario by virtue of being 2014 Caribbean Cup winners.

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