Nickname - Canarinhos
FIFA Ranking - 7th
Head Coach - Dunga
Best Copa Finish - Champions (8): 1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004 and 2007
Player You Should Know - Dani Alves, DEF, Juventus (ITA) - The longtime Barcelona man is moving on to Juve this summer and for a team that's missing players like David Luiz and Neymar, Alves is probably as big a name on the roster as any. He can play anywhere on the right side but primarily has been a top fullback for Barca.
Player To Watch - Willian, MID, Chelsea (ENG) - For as disappointing as Chelsea's club season was, one of the bright spots I noticed many times was Willian. The crafty midfield and set piece specialist is most comfortable on the right wing but he's pretty dangerous where ever he is, especially from a dead ball situation.
There's a bit of a split personality from Brazil in this one. On one hand, they've kept several of their stars home for the upcoming Olympics and it's making people wonder if they're taking this version of the Copa America seriously. On the other hand, they're still Brazil and they're still pretty good at soccer, so even them not taking it seriously could still result in a deep run into the semis or final. With a fairly easy group there's no reason for Brazil to not make the knockout stages and from there it's anyone's guess which team will show up.
Nickname - La Tricolor / Los Amarillos
FIFA Ranking - 13th
Head Coach - Gustavo Quinteros
Best Copa Finish - 4th Place (1959, 1993)
Player You Should Know - Walter Ayovi, DEF, Monterrey (MEX) - The longtime left back helped Monterrey to three straight CCL titles a few years ago and he's got over 100 international caps. This is a pretty balanced group of experienced pros and youngsters and Ayovi's one of the leaders of this group looking to make a breakthrough on the international stage.
Players To Watch - Antonio Valencia, MID, Manchester United (ENG) and Enner Valencia, FOR, West Brom (ENG) - No, the Valencia brothers are not actually brothers, but they're still good at soccer and if Ecuador's going to win this group or make a deep run in the knockout stages, these guys are going to have to be in top form. Along with Swansea City's Jefferson Montero, Ecuador boasts a fairly solid attack though they might lag slightly behind their CONEMBOL rivals.
Ecuador has been a rising soccer nation recently, qualifying for three of the last four World Cups, missing only 2010 in South Africa. They're another team however that's struggled making it out of the group stages, making the Round of 16 in Germany 2006 before losing to England and they haven't made the quarters in Copa America since 1997, seven tournaments ago. With a favorable draw, anything less than getting out of the group should be a failure for this squad.
Nickname - Les Grenadiers
FIFA Ranking - 71st
Head Coach - Patrice Neveu
Best Copa Finish - First Appearance
Player You Should Know - Soni Mustivar, MID, Sporting Kansas City (USA/MLS) - Mustivar is the lone MLS representative on the team, though several of his national teammates play in the NASL. Another name a few people might be familiar with is starting keeper Johnny Placide, who starred for Haiti in the Gold Cup last summer.
Player To Watch - Kervens Belfort, FOR, 1461 Trabzon (TUR) - I'm not sure if Haiti's going to be doing much scoring in this tournament, but if they do it's likely going to be Belfort or another 2015 Gold Cup hero in Duckens Nazon. If there's another surprise knockout stage appearance in store for Haiti, these two will have to find the scoresheet fairly often.
It's cliched to play the "Haiti are just probably happy to be here card" but if we're being honest, Haiti should absolutely be happy to be here. Their first appearance in the storied Copa America tournament for the Centenario and they're playing probably the best soccer since the golden generation of the 70s. This team outshot the USA 15-5 last year in the Gold Cup, a 1-0 loss, but they played an attractive, counter-attacking style and all they really lacked is a true goal scorer or poacher. If Haiti don't make the quarterfinals, they'll probably gain a lot of respect along the way if they continue to play that style and give opponents fits.
Nickname - Los Incas
FIFA Ranking - 46th
Head Coach - Ricardo Gareca
Best Copa Finish - Champions (1939, 1975)
Player You Should Know - Paolo Guerrero, FOR, Flamengo (BRA) - There's a staggering lack of experience and international goals on this team, but thankfully Guerrero's 67 appearances and 26 goals offer something from this roster.
Player To Watch -Yoshimar Yotun, MID, Malmo (SWE) - He's one of just three total players on this roster with more than 50 caps, as he and defender Alberto Rodriguez both have 54 appearances for the Incas. But mainly I just want to hear the Yoshimar Yotun said by the commentators as often as possible. Yes, I'm clutching at straws.
I have no idea what to make of this roster and from what I've read, neither does anyone else. Most of the domestic based players are younger with not a lot of international appearances and I'd actually bet money that a starting group from the guys left off the Peru roster, could probably beat the best lineup this Copa roster can produce. If head coach Gareca is looking towards the future, he's also looking at a quick exit from this tournament.
There are two clear cut favorites in this group in Brazil and Ecuador and two clear underdogs in Haiti and Peru. Brazil should have zero problems getting into the knockout rounds though I do have a bit of pause with Ecuador. Their 2016 form hasn't been the best, though it's a small sample size for a team that ended the 2015 calendar year with six straight wins. The question you have to ask is, are you willing to take a shot on Haiti perhaps advancing with four points on goal difference if they tie Ecuador in their matchup. As much as I want to see it, I think this group goes straight chalk with no surprises.