Reigning champions Chile will begin the defence of their Copa America title against guest nation Japan at Estadio do Morumbi on Monday night.The second fixture of the Group C of 2019 Copa America will take place in Sao Paulo on Monday, as current trophy holders Chile will lock horns with guest nation Japan.
Chile head into the competition, with the status of being champions in the last two editions of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, which was followed by a second-place finish in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. However, La Roja shockingly failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup last year. They will be aiming to banish the disappointment of that failure with another successful defence of their Copa America trophy.
Since September last year, Chile have managed to win just three of their eight matches (D2 L3). While they did win their most recent fixture against Haiti, Reinaldo Rueda’s men had failed to register victories against Mexico and USA earlier in March and will need to turn around their form, if they are to make a solid start to the campaign.
Japan have been invited to the Copa America alongside 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar. This will the Blue Samurai’s second participation in the competition, having first appeared in 1999, when they could not make it past the group stages. Since their World Cup exit in Russia, Japan have been in sensational form, having won 12 of the 16 matches they have played, with their latest game ending in a 2-0 win against El Salvador.
However, they will still be licking their wounds of the disappointing Asian Cup final defeat against Qatar earlier this year and will be aiming to make a mark in the South American tournament, starting with a win against the defending champions.
Manager Hajime Moriyasu has named a very youthful squad for the tournament, with as many as 16 uncapped players making the trip to South America. There is experience within the roster in the form of Gaku Shibasaki and Shinji Okazaki, while Real Madrid’s latest acquisition Takefusa Kubo is one of the most exciting young talents in the team.
Japan are likely to set out with a three-man backline against Chile, having resorted to the formation in their last two matches. In goal, the experienced Eiji Kawashima is likely to get the nod, with the three-man defence likely to comprise of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Naomichi Ueda and Yuta Nakayama.
Tatsuya Ito, who featured against El Salvador, is likely to get the nod again at right wing-back, with 20-year-old Daiki Sugioka set to occupy the opposite flank. Both the wing-backs will be encouraged to make overlapping runs and combine with the wingers deployed up ahead. Shibasaki and Teruki Hara will sit in the midfield and look to provide control.
The immensely talented Kubo should get the nod on the left side of the attacking trident with Shoya Nakajima likely to slot in on the opposite flank. Spearheading the attack for Japan should be veteran forward Okazaki.
In complete contrast to Japan, the Chile squad is loaded with seasoned campaigners with plenty of experience. The usual suspects like Arturo Vidal, Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla, Eduardo Vargas are all in the squad, as is star man Alexis Sanchez, who had a forgetful campaign for Manchester United and missed the Haiti game with an ankle injury.
Rueda is likely to stick with a four-man defence in front of goalkeeper Gabriel Arias on Monday night, with Isla and Jean Beausejour set to take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides respectively, while Medel will pair up with Alaves defender Guillermo Maripan at the heart of the defence, with Gonzalo Jara set to miss out.
At the base of the midfield for Chile will be 29-year-old Esteban Pavez, who is likely to be partnered by Bayer Leverkusen’s Charles Aranguiz. Arturo Vidal is in line to take up the No. 10 slot for La Roja and will look to create havoc in the final third with his strength and physicality.
Question marks remain over the match fitness of Alexis Sanchez, hence Rueda is likely to hand 34-year-old Jose Pedro Fuenzalida a start on the right flank, with Eduardo Vargas slotting in on the left, although he will be encouraged to drift into central areas. Nicolas Castillo will act as the focal point of the Chile attack against Japan.