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USA in tough test ahead of Copa America kick-off

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Colombia's James Rodriguez in action.PHOTO/File.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez in action.PHOTO/File.

LOS ANGELES, USA, June 2 – Hosts U.S.A’s road through the 2016 Copa America will be a difficult one as the tourney kicks-off on Friday.

Once again given a difficult path to the knockout rounds, USA is set to contend with Colombia and Paraguay, as well as a fellow CONCACAF power in Costa Rica.

All things considered, Group A features four teams that each have a chance to make a run to the knockout stage, and perhaps further, setting up for one of the more interesting pairings of the competition.

All things start with the hosts, the United States football team, who will be looking to advance to the knockout rounds on home soil.

Jurgen Klinsmann side’s first test will likely be its most difficult, as the U.S. kick-starts Copa America festivities against James Rodriguez and Colombia.

Los Cafateros remain the favorite to emerge from Group A and will be looking to cement their status as title contenders by emerging from Group A in a favorable spot.

Alongside them, both Paraguay and Costa Rica provide legitimate tests, even if the latter will be without Keylor Navas.

Paraguay has a rich history of success in Copa America competition, while Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup run looms large heading into another major tournament.

All the matches will be broadcasted live on StarTimes Tv that has brought the matches closer to Kenyans.

COPA AMERICA GROUP A

Friday; USA vs ColombiaLevi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Saturday; Costa Rica vs ParaguayCamping World Stadium, Orlando Florida

Tuesday; USA vs Costa RicaSoldier Field, Chicago, Illinois

                  Colombia vs Paraguay – Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

June 11; USA vs PARAGUAY – Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Colombia vs Cost Rica – NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

UNITED STATES

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, John Brooks

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: This year’s Copa America marks the USMNT’s fourth appearance after previously featuring in the 1993, 1995 and 2007 editions of the tournament. The USMNT’s best finis came in 1995 with fourth-place run, while each of the other two appearances yielded 12th place finishes.

OUTLOOK: Once again, the United Stars team has been tasked with emerging from a difficult group, but the road to the knockout rounds is certainly manageable.

The U.S. team as assembled is one of the deeper ones in recent memory, especially in defense with a unit that features four starters that log heavy minutes in two of the world’s top leagues.

A midfield unit led by Michael Bradley will always be dangerous, while youngsters like Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood should be expected to help usher in a new wave of attacking talent. All things considered, the U.S. has every chance to advance on home turf, and would likely see a group stage exit as a failure.

COLOMBIA

PLAYERS TO WATCH: James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca, Juan Cuadrado, Jeison Murillo

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Going back as far as the South American Championship days, Colombia as entered South America’s premier tournament 20 times.

The 2001 tournament win serves as a highlight for Los Cafateros, while Colombia has finished in the top three on four other occasions.

OUTLOOK: All but certainly the favorite to com from Group A, Colombia ranks among the world’s best, despite some recent struggles in World Cup qualifying.

A sensational run to the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals made James Rodriguez a star, while fellow attackers Carlos Bacca and Juan Cuadrado should test even the tournament’s top defenses. If the Colombia defense can hold steady, Los Cafateros should cruise into the knockout rounds.

COSTA RICA

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Ronald Matarrita

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Los Ticos have appeared in the Copa America on four occasions, with their best performances coming in runs to the quarterfinals in 2001 and 2004.

OUTLOOK: The loss of Keylor Navas serves as a body blow to Costa Rica, who now enter the Copa America without the services of CONCACAF’s top goalkeeper. Still, even without the Real Madrid star and recent Champions League winner, Los Ticos have the pieces to cause problems for each team in the group.

The 2014 World Cup showed exactly what Costa Rica can do, and this year’s Copa America could be another coming out party for a roster headlined by Arsenal’s Joel Campbell.

PARAGUAY

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Juan Iturbe, Nelson Valdez, Paulo da Silva, Antonio Sanabria

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: The 2016 Copa America will be Paraguay’s 36th. Entering the tournament, Paraguay has claimed the competition twice, in 1953 and 1979, while failing to advance from the group stage just three times since 1975.

OUTLOOK: Traditionally, Paraguay has fared quite well at the Copa America, but Los Guaraníes face a tough task in 2016. Talented attackers like Juan Iturbe, Nelson Valdez and Antonio Sanabria give Paraguay a chance, but Ramon Diaz’s group will likely rely on the counter-attack throughout the group stage.

In a group as tight as Group A, everyone has a chance, and Paraguay will rely on a traditionally stout defense to help marshall them to yet another knockout round after reaching the semifinals in 2015.

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