A few days before the Copa America got under way in Brazil, I had stuck my neck out - albeit rather prematurely - that the new generation of football fans possibly do not care as much about the Latin American showpiece as it’s European counterpart. As the business-end of the tournament is set to kick off on Friday night, I certainly feel that it’s perhaps easy to see why.
At the end of it all, the Copa has boiled down to few equations - can Brazil add another trophy to their overflowing cabinet? Or will it be Lionel Messi’s turn to win the elusive title this time before turning a new leaf after his huge decorated club career with Barcelona? Uruguay, an ageing side but capable of raising their game on the big occasions thanks to the presence of a Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani, but the side with the maximum number of Copa titles must first cross the hurdle of Colombia in the quarter final on Sunday to take their battle a step further.
The script, hence, had been all too predictable so far with the Samba Boys and Argentina topping the respective five-member group stages convincingly. The league format virtually ensures that the the group stages are played for teams to jockey for positions and to eliminate the two worst teams in the tournament. The depth of field being so small, CONMEBOL, the governing body of the sport there invite two AFC representatives: Australia and Qatar to play as the guest nations but they withdrew with the change in tournament dates after the event had to be shifted to Brazil at the last minute.
Now, compare this to the drama and unpredictable nature of the contest in the Euro 2020, especially in it’s round-of-16 stages. France and Croatia, the World Cup winners and runners-up, respectively, of Russia 2018 were shut out in what turned out to be the best-ever Euro night in a long, long time - while the quality of football on display over the last three weeks reflected that the depth of talent in European football now outweighs any other continents.
The problem with Copa America had been - generically speaking - it had been overtly reliant in recent years on a core of superstar players to sustain its charm - be it a once-in-a-generation footballer like Messi or Sergio Aguero; a Neymar; the Uruguyan guo of Cavani and Suarez or the Iván Zamorano-Marcelo Salas pair of Chile who took them to their last title five years back.
A look at their Roll of Honour clearly shows the heirarchy: Uruguay have won it the maximum number of times (15), followed by Argentina (14), Brazil (9) while Paraguay, Chile and Peru had their share of success twice each.
Even a staunch admirer of Latin American football may now choose to keep his or her date with Copa for the last - knowing that they can still have their fill of the ‘Big Two’ there. The need of the hour for Copa, hence is quite clear - they need the next generation of superstars after a Messi or Suarez to woo the fans back at odd hours.
Otherwise, Euro will keep winning hands down!