What we've learned after seeing each Copa America giant in action
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Just one of the past four Copa America winners opened its campaign with a victory, but that won't deter us from making premature conclusions about the five big-name South American nations vying for silverware this summer.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay won. Argentina, predictably, lost. But what did we actually learn about each South American behemoth?

Argentina's issues may never be resolved


With one winger, an obsession with playing everything through Lionel Messi, and little brawn in midfield, Argentina was a mess in its opener. Lionel Scaloni's side was bullied in Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Colombia, with no discernible tactical approach in the coach's lopsided, ugly setup.

Angel Di Maria was a prominent scapegoat in the loss. He was hauled off after a first half which saw him count a measly 14 touches and connect with only seven of his passes. In an attacking sense, he contributed nothing.

So, the plan is flawed, key players are underperforming, and, to make matters worse, Argentina isn't especially blessed with game-changers off the bench.

Lautaro Martinez is yet to set the world alight for Inter and Paulo Dybala has been frozen out at Juventus. Matias Suarez, 31, was used as a reserve against Colombia despite not being a regular starter for River Plate.

The defensive depth isn't great, either, with the sluggish Ramiro Funes Mori continuing to be a mainstay in the squad.

Argentina simply isn't the powerhouse it used to be.

Coutinho can forget Barca blues with Brazil

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Brazil's attack lacked direction in Friday's first half against Bolivia. Tite had strangely overmanned the middle against a vastly inferior opposition - Casemiro and Fernandinho were at the base of midfield, and full-backs Filipe Luis and Dani Alves operated centrally - and, in front of that jumble, Philippe Coutinho, David Neres, Roberto Firmino, and Richarlison seemed out of ideas.

Their lack of direction was perhaps due to being denied their usual plan: pass to Neymar.

But then Coutinho stepped up in the absence of his injured teammate, displaying the quality that was lacking for much of his 2018-19 term with Barcelona. His penalty was struck low and far from Carlos Lampe's reach, and he expertly drifted to the back stick to conclude a tidy team move with his head.

He thrived as the advanced figure in Tite's three-man midfield during the second half.

A strong tournament from Coutinho may be enough to salvage his club career with the Blaugrana, or at least ensure it receives a larger sum for him in the summer sales.

Don't be fooled by Chile's win


Japan wasted chances and disintegrated near the end of Monday's 4-0 loss to Chile. It certainly wasn't a procession or resounding statement to begin the latter's pursuit for a third straight South American crown.

Alexis Sanchez had an opportunity 59 minutes into the match to beat the right-back and charge deep into Japan territory. Except he didn't.

Instead, the Manchester United flop did what every out-of-form or slowing winger does: refused to test the defender, and hit an early and oft-ineffectual cross from the edge of his own attacking third.

He would later punish Japan's ineptitude with a goal, but the earlier cross was a moment indicative of the sad legends-tour feel about this Chile side: a flash of that old skill, a token hard tackle in an innocuous position, and then retire to the bus with a mug of cocoa before the next stop.

Eight of Chile's starting XI are aged 30 or over, and Eduardo Vargas - who scored twice and now has the most Copa America goals of active players with 12 - will lift that number to nine in November.

Very soon, Chile will be overrun.

Queiroz's Colombia has bite


Iran conceded just nine goals over Carlos Queiroz's last 16 matches in charge, so it's no surprise Colombia looks solid under the veteran manager. Los Cafeteros have let in just two in the five matches since Queiroz was unveiled as boss, and were especially tight in Saturday's 2-0 win over Argentina.

The Colombian defense impressed against Messi and his teammates - John Medina and Davinson Sanchez executed four tackles each, and Yerry Mina smashed away five clearances - but the midfield is the most intimidating element of Queiroz's collective.

Wilmar Barrios read the game excellently, not needing to tackle throughout the match as he repeatedly intercepted Argentina's aimless play and blocked its passing lanes. Juan Cuadrado dribbled and fouled, and was quickly substituted after he received a yellow card for a dangerous swing at Messi. Jefferson Lerma is brimming with confidence after an impressive, all-action yet ill-disciplined season with Bournemouth, and picked up an assist and a caution when he replaced Cuadrado.

Colombia's press and aggression terrified Argentina. Early evidence suggests James Rodriguez and Co. can grow into the tournament and potentially reach the final at the Maracana.

You can't write off Uruguay

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Judging the small sample sizes we've seen so far, Uruguay could be Colombia's semifinal opponent at Gremio's Porto Alegre home. It would be an unmissable match that could determine the eventual champion.

Uruguay has a tendency of winning this tournament when others are underperforming, and - let's not forget - is the most successful team in the competition with 15 titles.

Few would argue that La Celeste's central defensive partnership of Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin is the best at the 2019 Copa America, and that's before you even consider the attacking potency of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, and their supporting cast.

True, Ecuador was woeful in Sunday's 4-0 surrender. La Tricolor's defense collapsed like a battered accordion, the whole team's passing was wayward, and it was reduced to 10 men as early as the 24th minute when Jose Quintero's forearm connected with Nicolas Lodeiro's face.

But Uruguay's professionalism was so impressive. It swiftly conducted its business before coasting and saving its energy toward the finish.

Oscar Tabarez's unit could construct a similarly ominous scoreline against Japan on Thursday.

What we've learned after seeing each Copa America giant in action
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