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Copa America 2019 – Neymar, Qatar and the Maracana

Brazil talisman misses out on home tournament as Qatar take their place for first time.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi will be aiming to lift the Copa America trophy for the first time. (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Argentina’s Lionel Messi will be aiming to lift the Copa America trophy for the first time. (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The 46th Copa America gets under way in Brazil on Friday, with a wide open tournament expected.

With some big-name absentees, debuting countries and plenty of nations who could lift the trophy it promises to be an intriguing spectacle.

Here, Press Association Sport answers some questions ahead of the opening match.

Where and when is it taking place?

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The Maracana Stadium will host the final of the 2019 Copa America. (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Brazil will play host to the 2019 edition having won the tournament all the four previous occasions they have done so.

Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Port Alegre and Salvador, with the final at the famous Maracana.

The tournament runs from June 14 to July 7 with 26 matches played across thee four-team groups and a knockout stage.

Brazil or Argentina will win it, then?

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Luis Suarez’s Uruguay are the most successful team in Copa America history. (Mike Egerton/PA)

Not necessarily.

While Brazil have been victorious in every tournament they have hosted, they have only won the Copa America eight times in their history.

Compare that to the 14 won by their great rivals Argentina and it proves their pedigree is not quite what many would expect.

Argentina, though, have struggled in recent years and have not lifted the trophy since 1993, with Uruguay boasting the most successes in the history of the competition with 15.

Meanwhile, Chile have been the team to beat in recent years, following up their maiden Copa America title in 2015 by defending the crown in its centenary year.

Who else is competing?

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Former Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki has been named in the Japan squad for the tournament. (Mike Egerton/PA)

Since 1993, CONMEBOL – the governing body of South American football – has invited two teams from different associations to boost numbers in the finals.

Japan return for a second time having been knocked out of the group stage in 1999, while Qatar will make their debut this year.

Mexico have been invited to all previous editions since 1993 but are not participating this time around, while Australia are scheduled to enter for the first time at the 2020 event.

Japan were drawn in Group C alongside Uruguay, Ecuador and holders Chile, while Qatar will take on Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay in Group B.

Messi v Neymar will be the main attraction, right?

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Injury has ruled Neymar out of the Brazil squad. (Steven Paston/PA)

No.

Neymar will not be available for Brazil after suffering an ankle injury in a friendly against Qatar.

The Paris St Germain forward would no doubt have courted plenty of attention considering his status in his homeland and the fact he is facing serious off-field allegations.

Meanwhile, Argentina captain Messi has famously never been able to carry his sensational club form with Barcelona onto the international scene.

The 31-year-old has more than 20 major honours in Spain but only holds an Olympic gold medal and an Under-20 World Cup win when it comes to his Argentina trophy collection.

So, who else should we be keeping an eye on?

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Chile forward Alexis Sanchez has struggled for form at Manchester United. (Mark Kerton/PA)

In the light of Neymar’s absence, Everton forward Richarlison will be looking to seize his moment to shine.

The 22-year-old has scored five goals from his 10 senior caps and has been in great form for his country over the last season.

Elsewhere, Udinese winger Rodrigo De Paul will hope to be given the opportunity to make an impression – as will fellow Serie A man Duvan Zapata.

The Colombia striker hit 23 league goals for Atalanta last season and is the pretender to Radamel Falcao’s international crown.

There will also be interest in how Alexis Sanchez performs for Chile, considering his alarming drop in form since joining Manchester United in January 2018.

PA

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