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Copa America Team of the Week - Lionel Messi, Neymar, Casemiro

Copa America Team of the Week - Messi, Neymar, Casemiro
© Reuters
Sports Mole selects its Copa America team of the week for matchday one of the competition, including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Casemiro.

In the first round of Copa America fixtures, eight of the 10 teams were in action, as they all looked to kick off their campaigns with positive results, and it was Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay who enjoyed the best starts.

The tournament began on Sunday in Brasilia, as hosts and defending champions Brazil comfortably defeated Venezuela 3-0 to calm the nerves of the favourites as they go into a title defence.

Colombia then joined them at the top end of group A, as they beat neighbours Ecuador 1-0 in Cuiaba.

Elsewhere, heavily-fancied Argentina were somewhat disappointed to be held to a draw by Chile, stalling what could have been a positive start for La Albiceleste in their search for a first Copa America title since the turn of the century.

The gameweek was then rounded off with a comfortable 3-1 victory for Paraguay against Bolivia, seeing Los Guaranies move to the summit of group B after a dominant performance, and here Sports Mole selects its Copa America Team of the Week for the first round.



DEFENCE

Marquinhos celebrates scoring for Brazil at the Copa America on June 13, 2021© Reuters

Although both David Ospina and Alisson Becker picked up clean sheets for Colombia and Brazil respectively, arguably the two most impressive goalkeeping performances came in the clash between Argentina and Chile, as Emiliano Martinez impressed and saved a penalty, while it is former Barcelona man Claudio Bravo who makes it into this team, as he produced several heroic saves to deny the likes of Lautaro Martinez and former teammate Lionel Messi from close range, keeping Argentina within reach and earning his side a point in the process.

The back four begins with one of his compatriots at left-back, as Eugenio Mena makes the inaugural Team of the Week thanks to a solid performance in that draw with Argentina, as he defended his side excellently and offered width for their attacks.

Mena was able to manage a dangerous flank well, dealing with the likes of Messi and advanced midfielder Rodrigo De Paul.

He lines up alongside the final Chilean in this side, as centre-back Guillermo Maripan was the rock at the heart of their back line in an inspired performance, strengthening those around him with an inspired effort. Chile's point was largely thanks to him, as he rarely afforded the dangerous Argentinian attack a chance, with Bravo there to sweep up on the rare occasion that they broke through.

Next to him at centre-back is Brazilian defender Marquinhos, who looked assured in a comfortable 3-0 victory in their opening game against Venezuela, shielding Alisson on the odd occasion that the defence was drawn into action, while he also showed intuition to pounce onto a loose ball from a corner and slot the ball away for their opening goal, easing Brazil's nerves in a potentially tricky opening encounter.

While Colombia's Yerry Mina is unlucky not to earn a place after keeping a clean sheet with a commanding performance, Marquinhos undoubtedly deserves his spot alongside Maripan.

Rounding off the defence, Marquinhos's compatriot Danilo looked equally assured in their 3-0 victory on Sunday, while the right-back offered plenty to their attacking play as he was camped deep into the Venezuela half for the majority of the proceedings, creating chances for his teammates on several occasions.



MIDFIELD

Argentina's Giovani Lo Celso in action at the Copa America on June 14, 2021© Reuters

The first of two midfielders sitting in front of the defence is Colombia's Wilmar Barrios, who helped them to a solid clean sheet and three points with a strong showing in the middle, performing at both ends of the pitch to pip the likes of Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes and Mathias Villasanti to the first midfield spot.

He is joined at the base of the midfield by Brazil's enforcer Casemiro, who was everywhere in their dominant win, contributing to attack and defence in his usual classy style. While he may have had more attacking input than usual in such a one-sided affair, the Real Madrid man ensured that his side never lost control, immediately snuffing out danger on several occasions to ensure his nation remained in the driving seat throughout.

Ahead of those two, Argentina's Giovani Lo Celso slots into the side, after he complemented their front three excellently with some great runs and advanced passes, having been particularly unlucky to miss out on an assist with Nicolas Gonzalez failing to find the net after a perfect through ball. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has made himself a certain starter for Argentina's next game with a classy performance.



ATTACK

Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring on June 13, 2021© Reuters

Starting the front three, Paraguay's Angel Romero features on the right-hand side after he starred in their 3-1 victory in the opening match, netting a brace to help his side to a deserved victory. As they unexpectedly trailed until the hour mark, squandering over 15 chances, it was Romero's clinical finishing in the final 30 minutes that sealed the win after Alejandro Romero, who is unlucky not to make this side, levelled the scoring.

Without a surprise, leading the line is Argentina's talisman Lionel Messi, who put his nation ahead with a stunning free kick from 25 yards, and having made several chances for his teammates to double their lead, the Barcelona star was unlucky not to come out on the winning side after Chile equalised with a rebound from a saved penalty on the hour mark. Nevertheless, he pips the likes of Gabriel Jesus, who found the net for Brazil but missed several close-range chances to double his tally or even hit a hat-trick.

Rounding off the team, with arguably the performance of the week, is Brazilian forward Neymar, who hit a goal from the penalty spot to double their lead before he rounded the Venezuela goalkeeper and supplied substitute Gabriel Barbosa with an empty net to add a third late in the game. While he passed up several opportunities to add to his goal tally, Neymar was a constant threat and shone yet again for his nation.



SPORTS MOLE'S COPA AMERICA TEAM OF THE WEEK

Copa America TOTW 1

Sports Mole's Copa America team of the week (4-3-3): Bravo; Danilo, Marquinhos, Maripan, Mena; Casemiro, Barrios, Lo Celso; Romero, Messi, Neymar


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