The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) Monday decided that this year's Copa America, originally scheduled to be cohosted by Argentina and Colombia in 2020, will be staged in Brazil.
The tournament was first postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, then Colombia was cancelled as a possible venue earlier in May due to social unrest and violence and finally Argentina was evaluating whether it was a good idea to move forward with the competition in light of the soaring number of Covid-19 cases.
In that scenario, Conmebol decided Sunday evening not to wait until Argentina made up its mind (and say no) and announced a new venue was to be searched. The United States, Chile and Paraguay were the most likely candidates, but surprisingly, Brazil, who hosted the 2019 event, has been selected.
The exact new schedule of matches and venues is to be announced shortly, Conmebol sources have said, but it is believed that they will not be very distant from one another. The opening match will pitch Argentina against Chile as planned on June 13, but it remains to be known where. And the title decider is to take place July 10.
“I want to especially thank President @jairbolsonaro and his cabinet for hosting the oldest national team tournament in the world. Likewise, my gratitude to President Rogério Caboclo and @CBF_Futebol, for their invaluable collaboration,” Conmebol President Alejandro Domínguez wrote on Twitter.
“A thanks to the government of Argentina and to the President of @afa (Argentine Football Association) @tapiachiqui, for the great efforts made to hold CONMEBOL @CopaAmerica in that country. There will surely be new opportunities to carry out joint projects in Argentina,” he also wrote..
“Our gratitude also to the Colombian government and to the President of @FCFSeleccionCol, Ramón Jesurún, for all the efforts put into hosting CONMEBOL @CopaAmerica 2021. New opportunities will soon arise to work together for Colombian and South American football,” Domínguez went on.
But what actually mattered was that “Today we received the firm support of the members of the CONMEBOL Council, who unanimously approved the proposal to contest the CONMEBOL @CopaAmerica 2021 in Brazil. It is a satisfaction to have the constant support of our colleagues,” he posted.
What was a cause for celebration for Domínguez becamae a cause for concern in many Brazilian states. Pernambuco authorities said the Arena Pernambuco staium in Recife will not be available, as Brazil remains the country most affected by the covid-19 pandemic on the continent.
ICUs in several Brazilian states are full, and epidemiologists are forecasting a worsening in the Brazilian health disaster for the Copa America dates.
The best football in the world will bring joy and passion to millions of South Americans. Conmebol thanks President Jair Bolsonaro and his team, as well as the Brazilian Football Confederation, for opening the doors of that country to what is today the most important sporting event. safe in the world. South America will shine in Brazil with all its stars!, said Conmebolthrough its official Twitter account.
Argentina recorded more than 3.75 million infections and more than 77,000 covid-19-related deaths throughout the pandemic. On Sunday, Argentina had an average incidence rate of 485 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. Brazil's rate was 1,838 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Opposition politicians in Brazil have vowed to seek the intervention of the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) rgarding the hosting of the Copa America and to summon Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Rogério Caboclo before the CPI parliamentary commission already investigating Bolsonaro's handng of the pandemic.
Conmebol is said to have received proposals from Ecuador and Venezuela to host the matches originally scheduled for Colombia. Chile was also considered to share the tournament with Argentina, especially due to the advance of vaccination against covid-19 in the country. But, due to different sanitary restrictions in each nation, Conmebol thought it better to hold the tournament in a single country to avoid international travel.
Last weekend the Argentine Interior Minister, Wado de Pedro, signaled that it would be very difficult to hold the tournament in Argentine territory. I talked to the president [Alberto Fernández] because of the health situation. We reviewed the epidemiological situation in Mendoza, Córdoba, Tucumán, Santa Fe... Some are hosting the World Cup. From the health diagnosis we see that it will be very difficult to play in the Argentina, he said.
A public opinion poll released on Friday found that 70% of Argentines did not want the Copa América to take place in the country. And Conmebol spared Fernández the embarrassment of having to make such an announcement.
Brazilian soccer sources have hinted stadiums from the 2014 World Cup are to be used: the Mané Garrincha, in Brasília, Arena Amazônia, in Manaus, Arena Pernambuco, in the outskirts of Recife, and Arena das Dunes in Natal. But Pernambuco has already spoken against it.
During the Copa America, Brazil's local tournament or tournaments are not to be interrupted, as is the scase in most other South American countries.
It will be the second time in history that two Copa Americas are held consecutively in the same country after Uruguay hosted the 1923 and 1924 editions. In fact, Paraguay was to hosto the 1924 version, but citing lack of proper infrastructure, it did so on Uruguayan soil.