Japan and Qatar have become the latest guest nations to be invited to play in the tournament’s upcoming edition.
The 46th edition of the Copa America is just around the corner and the draws look exciting. This year Brazil will be hosting the tournament from 14th June and runs through the month till 7th of July. Like every edition, CONMEBOL has managed a total of 12 teams divided into three groups.
CONMEBOL has a unique swagger about themselves as they like to invite nations out of the continent to brush shoulders with some of the best teams in the world. However, the invitations have been limited to North American countries up until now and there was just one rare occasion when Japan was invited to feature.
Firstly after the draw, the groups are pretty clear and the big boys should enjoy a pretty smooth ride but one may never know how deceiving can a team be on paper than on the field.
Hosts, Brazil find themselves in Group A alongside Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela. Arch-rivals, Argentina, however, are in Group B which is comparatively a tricker group consisting of Colombia, Paraguay and one of the invitees this year – Qatar.
Group C has the reigning champions Chile who are clubbed alongside Uruguay, Ecuador and Japan. Just like the Maroons, the Blue Samurais will also feature in the main event as guest nations.
History of Invitees in Copa America
It was back in 1993 when CONMEBOL decided that due to limited nations the federation, they would invite national teams to fill in the 12 teams slot. Many of the fans all over the world failed to notice this but the feature has caught fire since the involvement of Asian nations, Qatar and Japan.
The 1990s- 2000s era
At first, there were just Mexico and USA. However, with time the options increased but Mexico were the one side who tend to remain constant. El Tri reached the finals of the 1993 Copa America and thanks to a brace from Gabriel Batistuta, the Albiceleste prevailed over their foes becoming continental champions.
The following tournament in 1995 also saw both Mexico and USA to join the other ten CONMEBOL nations. Their performances were exceptional as well as Mexico were beaten on penalties by the USA in the quarterfinals, who actually were a force to reckon with at that time.
It was a dream run for the Stripes and Stars as a narrow defeat to Brazil ended their journey in the semifinals. The weight of defeat was so heavy that the team could not recover and lost their third-place match against Colombia.
Mexico, however, continued their consistency in the tournament, finishing at the third place in both ’97 and ’99 editions of the Copa America.
In ‘ 97 a new nation in the form of Costa Rica were invited but the Los Ticos failed to leave a mark. Alongside them were Japan. However, the Blue Samurais succumbed to the daunting task of competing with the big guns and failed to cross the group stages.
Invited Teams Copa America 1993-2019
The 2000s -2010s era
In 2001 the continental tournament was organised in Colombia and for the first time, CONMEBOL invited three teams from CONCACAF – Mexico as always along with Costa Rica and Honduras who were making their Copa debut.
Honduras finished in a commendable third position in their debut year and in their route to semifinals they defeated one of the tournament favourites Brazil in the quarters. The hosts eventually knocked out the underdogs in the semifinals as Honduras managed to secure the prestigious third place in another closely fought match against Uruguay. Mexico, on the other hand, were writing a story of their own as the El Tri were narrowly beaten by the hosts, Colombia.
The 2004 Copa America was nothing great for the guest nations, Mexico and Costa Rica as both the teams failed to cross the first hurdle of the group stage. Now coming the 2007 Copa America, the El Tri were back with their very best as the Mexican side topped their group consisting Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. Managed by Hugo Sanchez, the Mexican team had a fearless approach to the tournament which has been their main weapon since ’93.
Mexico hammed six goals past Paraguay and marched on to the semifinals against Argentina. The El Tri were beaten comprehensively by an astute Argentine side as both Riquelme and Messi were in the scoresheet that night. Sanchez’s men ended their campaign by again beating Uruguay in the third place decider.
The 2010s-2020s era
In the 2011 Copa America, it was again a dry spell for the invitee nations as the only consistent performers, Mexico failed to put up a show and Costa Rica maintained their consistency of only being there to fill the numbers. 2015 also saw a similarly sorry tale as the El Tri failed to cross the group stages in consecutive Copa Americas for the first time. Jamaica who were making their debut failed to make any impact.
The 2016 Copa America saw CONMEBOL celebrate 100 years of this prestigious tournament and it was named as, Copa America Centenario. The stage was in the United States and a horde of CONCACAF teams were invited to the gala. Starting with hosts USA and regular participants Mexico.
Costa Rica and Jamaica qualified as winners of the 2014 Centroamericana and Carribean Cup respectively. Both Panama and Haiti hustled their way through the qualifiers. However, despite the bigger stage and larger opportunity, the CONCACAF nations again failed to match their CONMEBOL counterparts, as barring the United States and Mexico, all other teams could not make their way past the group stages.
The tournament had some shocking outcomes, as both Brazil and Uruguay failed to progress beyond the group stages and the host nation made a spirited run before getting battered by Argentina in the semi-finals. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men also lost the following third-placed match against Colombia, as the Stripes and Stars again failed to beat their best record back in 1995. Mexico made their way to the quarterfinals and were bamboozled 7-0 by Chile, who were the eventual champions.
This year again CONMEBOL have invited two nations, but for the first time, football fans will not get to see the Mexican side rub shoulders with the best teams in South America. This time the federation has gone with two AFC nations- Japan and Qatar. Although, this is not the first time at the tournament for the Samurai Blue, their last appearance came way back in 1999.
Qatar, on the other hand, are set to host the upcoming FIFA World Cup and hence their debut in the Copa America will give the Maroons much-needed international exposure and an opportunity to play with some of the best teams in world football. It will be interesting to see how both the teams fare against stronger opposition at the continental showpiece.