Big things could be in store for Brazil this summer, but it will be the one team playing in Copa America with its eyes elsewhere. That's because the Brazilians host the Olympics this summer and the soccer team faces immense pressure to win that title.
The Brazilians still should be the class of perhaps the worst group of the tournament, so progression shouldn't be a concern. They will field a much younger team in this tournament; only nine of the 20 most capped players for Brazil since coach Dunga was re-appointed to this post in July 2014 will be in the USA. With the Olympics being the big focus and Barcelona adamant about Neymar not playing in both summer tournaments, he'll be absent from the USA as well.
Brazil played just one friendly with this team to prepare for this tournament, winning 2-0 against Panama Friday in Denver. As of earlier in the week, Dunga had already made four changes to his initial 23-man roster. Benfica's Jonas was one of the players called in before the trip to Denver and he scored less than two minutes in to celebrate his inclusion. Willian is another key player; the Chelsea man wasn't at his best for club this season but could assert himself at the international level with Neymar out.
Ranked 12th in the world in most recent FIFA rankings, Ecuador figures to be the biggest threat to pip the Brazilians. They controlled large parts of their only preparation for this event, a 1-0 friendly defeat to the United States. Alexander Dominguez was injured shortly before the intermission, and the goalkeeper's status is unknown as of the middle of the week. Also missing was Manchester United's Antonio Valencia. Still, "Los Amarillos" fielded a strong lineup and should look to stay in good form; they are tied atop the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018 with 13 points through six fixtures.
Ecuador got perhaps the most fortuitous draw of all in what looks to be the weakest group; they will be solid favorites against Haiti and Peru. The talent is there for a deep run and the draw is conducive to one as well. But Ecuador have advanced out of the group stage just one time in the last major eight competitions dating back to the 2002 World Cup and this group have not played well in these rapid-fire format tournaments.
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca showed just how sick he is of his side's efforts thus far in World Cup qualifying that he decided to leave many of his veteran stalwarts off his side. "La Blanquirroja" have dusted two lesser CONCACAF sides in friendlies (4-0 over Trinidad & Tobago in Lima and 3-1 over El Salvador in Washington D.C.) and are set to face Haiti in the opener.
Gareca's got almost half (11 of his 23) his roster that have not participated in any of the qualifiers and seven of them haven't even been in the squad. Peru sit eighth with just four points through six rounds. The Peruvians are easily the greenest side of this tournament, but does sport some young talent that has shown they can score goals.
Haiti enters this tournament with just one win in its last six matches and lost its only preparation friendly on Sunday in Miami to Colombia, 3-1. The Haitians had to play the last 50-plus minutes of the match a man down as Max Hilaire picked up two yellow cards in a nine-minute stretch sandwiched around the tying goal.
The Haitians will play with plenty of vigor, but in a group with three South American teams, it looks outmatched here and at No. 71 in the world, only ranks ahead of Venezuela in this field of 16. Before we look at the scheule for Group B, take a look at the Preview for Group C for the Copa America.
Group B Schedule (All times Eastern Daylight):
June 4 - Haiti vs. Peru (Seattle), 7:30
Brazil vs. Ecuador (Pasadena), 10
June 8 – Brazil vs. Haiti (Orlando), 7:30
Ecuador vs. Peru (Glendale), 10
June 12 - Ecuador vs. Haiti (East Rutherford), 6:30
Brazil vs. Peru (Foxborough), 8:30