Argentina can end barren 23 years, says Richard Buxton
Martino's men well-poised to end 23-year wait for major triumph
South America's ultimate footballing celebration is poised to become even bigger and better.
Not only will the Copa America decamp to the United States for its centenary, uprooting from its native setting for the first time in the tournament's 100-year history, other previously uncharted territories will also be broached.
In a landmark year come other seismic changes - goal-line technology will be introduced, as will an extended Finals make-up of 16 teams, compared to its traditional 12.
Euro 2016's own party will somewhat pale in comparison as the bulk of the continent's elite performers prepare to jet across the Atlantic Ocean en masse.
Eight of the Copa America's competing nations reached the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup - double the amount stepping out in France this summer - is proof, were it needed, that the "Centenario" will not be treated as a mere ceremonial tournament.
That the big hitters of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia have all been kept apart at the group stage only enhances the inevitability of another highly enticing round of match-ups from the quarter-finals.
Led by a fearsome attack featuring Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina will head north as the hot favourites, but also with vengeance firmly in their minds.
Still smarting from their World Cup final heartache against Germany in 2014, defeat by Chile in last year's Copa final was a fresh wound which extended their drought of senior silverware to 23 years after their 1993 Copa America triumph.
Opening their Group D campaign with a rematch against their conquerors, boasting Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal within their ranks, could prove the perfect tonic for La Albiceleste on their planned route to victory.
Gerardo Martino is arguably better positioned heading into this year's tournament than his country were in their previous two competitions.
Both Erik Lamela and Angel di Maria, much-maligned in previous years, have regained prominence, in and away from the harsh territory of the EPL, while an Atletico Madrid-bound Nicolas Gaitan has continued on his own ascendancy.
Messi's exploits in another trophy-laden campaign for Barcelona invariably continue to steal focus for Argentina, with this season's mesmerising displays supplemented by another impressive haul of 41 goals in 49 appearances.
Only Luis Suarez, with an emphatic 59 from 53 games, fared better at the Nou Camp.
His potential absence, after suffering a hamstring injury in the Copa del Rey final, threatens to put paid to Uruguay's attempts to reaffirm their status as kings of this tournament, with a record-high 15 victories.
Brazil, second favourites, are also set to be devoid of key personnel, albeit largely through personal choice.
Neymar will be the most notable absentee for the Selecao, at Barca's request due to his impending involvement in the Olympics.
Veteran forward Kaka, winger Douglas Costa, goalkeeper Ederson, midfielder Rafinha and striker Ricardo Oliveira are also out through injury.
Dunga has continued to wield the axe as he looks to better the country's quarter-final elimination by Paraguay in last year's tournament.
That ruthless governance has seen Marcelo, David Luiz and Thiago Silva all consigned to surplus while Real Madrid enforcer Casemiro was selected ahead of the more experienced Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho.
Others have followed suit. Colombia coach Jose Pekerman has omitted Radamel Falcao, following another unspectacular season on loan in England, and Jackson Martinez, on the back of his big-money move to China.
Fittingly, the old order no longer applies in the Copa America's new ball game.
- US v Colombia (9.30am)
- Costa Rica v Paraguay (5am)
- Haiti v Peru (7.30am)
- Brazil v Ecuador (10am)
- Jamaica v Venezuela (5am)
- Mexico v Uruguay (8am)
- Panama v Bolivia (7am)
- Argentina v Chile (10am)
All in Singapore time. Live on Singtel TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 213.
'Hungry' US have no fear
UNITED STATES v COLOMBIA
(Today, 9.30am, Singtel TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 213)
Juergen Klinsmann is confident the United States can spring a surprise over Colombia this morning (Singapore time), when his team kick off their Copa America campaign, determined to launch an extended run in the competition.
Two years after the US emerged from the "Group of Death" at the 2014 World Cup, reaching the knockout rounds at the expense of Portugal and Ghana, Klinsmann's men find themselves with another daunting first-round assignment.
As well as the Colombians, the Americans face World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica and last year's Copa America semi-finalists Paraguay in Group A, easily the toughest group in the 16-team tournament.
Yet Klinsmann is relishing the prospect of trying to mastermind another upset of Colombia on US soil, 22 years after the Americans' famous win over the South Americans at the 1994 World Cup.
The former German international wants to see how his team measure up against powerful opponents in this morning's opener at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara as he builds towards the 2018 World Cup.
"We were in the 'Group of Death' in Brazil and we managed to come out of it, we left Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo behind, we left Ghana behind and then we hit the wall with Belgium in extra time," Klinsmann said.
Although the Colombians boast an array of attacking talent led by Real Madrid's James Rodriguez and Juventus' Juan Cuadrado, Klinsmann believes the US can exploit weaknesses in Los Cafeteros' ranks.
"Every team have their strengths and weaknesses. We've learnt a lot over the past couple of years about how to play big teams and how to come up with solutions against big teams, whether it's in Europe or elsewhere," added Klinsmann, whose side have beaten Germany (2-1) and Holland (4-3) in friendlies over the past 12 months.
"We've managed to get very good results. We respect them a lot, they deserve a lot of respect but, on the other side, we have no fear. We have a team that are very hungry. We have players that can match up."
Klinsmann hinted that Colombia's deadly counter-attacking prowess could present opportunities for his side.
"We've been doing our homework. I'm a big admirer of (Colombia coach Jose) Pekerman and we know how fast they can transition from defending into attack," he said.
"They exploit space within a couple of seconds, that's where they're very dangerous scoring many goals.
"But we can also see that they leave weaknesses behind, so hopefully, we can take advantage of that."
Klinsmann has drawn encouragement from the recent blossoming of a crop of young players, including Hamburg winger Bobby Wood (23), Tottenham Hotspur defender DeAndre Yedlin (22) and German-born defender John Brooks (23).
"It's exciting for us to see the growth of some players over the last two years," Klinsmann said.
"Young players can grow only if you give them time to play. Young players can grow only if they can fail. If they don't have opportunities, they will never grow."
Klinsmann, however, added that he would not hesitate to turn to old players if there's a need to.
"This is about the best team representing our country in order to get results," he said.
"We're not giving away favours here. If we feel it's necessary to bring a veteran in to get a result, that guy will come in. It's all about now. It's about winning." - AFP.
Gustavo latest to pull out
Brazil's troubled build-up to the Copa America hit another snag on Thursday, when midfielder Luiz Gustavo became the sixth player to withdraw from the squad, citing "personal problems".
It comes a day after veteran forward Kaka pulled out with a hamstring injury before Brazil open their campaign against Ecuador in California tomorrow morning (Singapore time). Wallace of Brazilian side Gremio has replaced Gustavo.
"In a discussion with the technical staff of the Brazilian team, the Wolfsburg player has asked to be released from the squad due to personal problems," the Brazilian confederation said in a statement, without giving details.
Kaka had been an injury replacement for Bayern Munich's Douglas Costa. Other players ruled out because of injury include Ricardo Oliveira Santos, replaced by Jonas, goalkeeper Ederson and Barcelona midfielder Rafinha. - AFP.