Copa America title is Brazil's to lose

Richarlison (No.7), Neymar (No.10) and Gabriel Jesus are just three of Brazil's attacking options.
Richarlison (No.7), Neymar (No.10) and Gabriel Jesus are just three of Brazil's attacking options.

Brazil's national team players were reluctant to play in the Copa America on home soil.

Now that they're committed, they're favoured to win it.

Argentina still looms as a threat to Brazil's title defence, but now as a visiting team.

Argentina and Colombia were dropped as tournament co-hosts before Brazil contentiously stepped in late to stage the continental championship - for the second time in a row.

The Copa America will kick-off on Sunday with champions Brazil against Venezuela at the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia.

The final will be on July 10 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro - one of the COVID-19 epicentres in Brazil, where more than 480,000 have died from the coronavirus.

No spectators will be allowed to attend any Copa America matches because of restrictions in place for the pandemic, which has already delayed the tournament by a year.

Brazil players ended speculation about a potential boycott by issuing a unified statement on Wednesday saying they are "unsatisfied" with the decision to move the tournament to their country, but it wouldn't stop them representing their Selecao.

If South American World Cup qualifiers are anything to go by, the Copa America title is Brazil's to lose.

They have won all six of their games to be six points clear of second place Argentina.

With the likes of Neymar on board, coach Tite expects not only to defend the title lifted in 2019, but also use the next 30 days to prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Argentina were third in the 2019 Copa America but have improved under coach Lionel Scaloni, with more support for captain Lionel Messi.

And that means the soon-to-be 34-year-old doesn't need to be part of every play for the Albiceleste to win.

Argentina haven't won a major title since the 1993 Copa America.

Colombia have improved since the return of coach Reinaldo Rueda and the Copa America could further enhance them, despite the absence of James Rodriguez because of fitness problems.

Uruguay have struggled in recent time despite counting on Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani in attack.

Peru, the 2019 Copa America runners-up, will be looking to Mexico-based Santiago Ormeno to fire in the absence of injured ace Paolo Guerrero while Chile coach Martin Lasarte has decided to use an inexperienced squad, making it more of a priority to qualify for the next World Cup.

Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay are in Group A while Brazil are in Group B with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

The four best of each group advance to the knockout stage.

Quarter-finals will take place on July 2 at the Nilton Santos and Goiania's Olimpico stadium, and July 3 at Olimpico stadium and Brasilia's Mane Garrincha.

The semi-finals will be at the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio on July 5 and in Brasilia the next day.

Australian Associated Press