CONMEBOL, the South American soccer organization, announced Brazil as the host of the Copa América for the second time in a row after Colombia and Argentina were stripped of the rights to host the tournament. The decision was made Monday hours after Argentina was ruled out amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. Colombia was ousted as a co-host on May 20 when street protests against President Iván Duque shook the nation.
CONMEBOL said that the tournament is confirmed to take place between June 13 and July 10. Brazil is the defending champion, winning the competition in 2019 as host. “The host cities and the matches will be confirmed by CONMEBOL in a few hours. The oldest international tournament in the world will have the whole continent cheering! “said the South American body.
“CONMEBOL thanks President Jair Bolsonaro and his team, and also the Brazilian soccer confederation for opening the doors of this country to the safest sporting event in the world today. South America will shine in Brazil with all its stars, ”said the soccer organization. More than 460,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, and many analysts expect another wave of the disease to hit the country in late June. Many hospitals have more than 80% of their intensive care unit occupied by victims of the virus.
Bolsonaro has defied social distancing restrictions and called for a return to normal life despite the slow launch of the vaccine. His handling of the response to the pandemic is being investigated by a Brazilian Senate investigation. Argentina is facing a surge in coronavirus infections, with strict lockdown measures imposed last weekend amid a seven-day average of 35,000 cases and 500 deaths. More than 77,000 people have died in the country from the disease, as the virus continues to spread.
South American teams are already training for the tournament and two qualifying rounds for the World Cup begin this week. Like other continental tournaments, the Copa América was initially scheduled for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to be postponed. The 2020 version of the Copa América was to introduce a new format with five teams based on each of the co-hosts, Colombia and Argentina.
Group A includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, while Group B includes Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. The top four teams in each group were to advance to the knockout phase, and the final was originally scheduled to be played in Barranquilla, Colombia. It would have been the first Copa América organized by two countries. Qatar, the hosts of the 2022 World Cup, and Australia, who were to participate as guests, decided in February to withdraw due to the coronavirus pandemic.