[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Copa América is set to kick off later this month in that promises to be a footballing spectacle in Chile, with some superb teams and players on show.
Argentina, as always when major tournaments roll around, will be one of the frontrunners for glory – and rightly so.
Head coach Gerardo Martino possesses an enviable amount of world-class attacking talent, with his star-studded team led by Lionel Messi, who has been in unplayable form in 2015.
Although age-old rivals Brazil will also be in the mix and holders Uruguay will fancy their chances, some of the main challenges that Argentina will have to overcome in their search for their first title since 1993 will be spearheaded by the Albiceleste’s countrymen.
Interestingly, of the other 11 nations to enter the competition, five are led to the tournament by Argentine coaches.
One of the biggest threats comes from the tournament hosts Chile, who are searching for their first-ever Copa América crown.
Beaten four times in the final, the expectation surrounding the home nation this time round is palpable given the quality in the contingent, including world-class stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez.
Chile continue to be led forward by the charismatic Argentine Jorge Sampaoli, who has been in the role since 2012.
Born in Santa Fe, the tactician’s playing career was cut tragically cut after serious injury, which forced the Newell’s Old Boys midfielder to retire at the age of only 19.
Having played a part in Universidad de Chile’s domestic success prior to taking on the national role and also managing in Peru and Ecuador, Sampaoli has been removed from the Argentine game for most of his professional life.
A potential dark horse for the competition is Colombia, who have no shortage of talent and after an impressive World Cup campaign are still coached by Argentine José Pékerman.
After seven years in charge of his nation’s under-20’s side, the 65-year-old had a two-year stint as Argentina’s head coach.
He took a gifted Albiceleste outfit that contained the mercurial Juan Román Riquelme to the 2006 World Cup but resigned after the failure to deliver glory in Germany.
Since then Pékerman has managed two Mexican clubs before stepping into his current position in 2012 and like Sampaoli has seemingly cut ties to some degree with his homeland.
Unlike the previous mentioned duo, the 55-year-old has spent most of his managerial career in native Argentina, but left to take the reins with the Paraguayan national team last year.
Vastly successful as both a player and coach at River Plate, Díaz will be determined to inflict a blow to his home nation’s chances but in reality will need a feat of giant-killing to record anything other than defeat against Argentina.
The remaining two Argentines spearheading other countries’ chances are Ecuador’s Gustavo Quinteros and Peru’s Ricardo Gareca.
Ecuador are coming off the back of a decent World Cup showing, but enter a tightly-matched Group A alongside Chile, Mexico and Bolivia.
Argentine Quinteros accepted the role earlier this year following three years in charge of Ecuadorian club Emelec.
As a player, although he was born in Santa Fe and stepped out for Newell’s Old Boys, San Lorenzo and Argentinos Juniors, the retired defender played 26 times for Bolivia.
Since a season in charge of San Martín de San Juan in 2006-07, Quinteros has managed outside of his homeland.
Gareca is a 20-times capped former Argentina international but his coaching career has seen him perform the role of South American journeyman.
Before being appointed as Peru’s boss earlier this year, the 57-year-old had 13 different club coaching roles – four of them over the years at Tallares in his homeland, but he has also taken charge of Brazilian, Peruvian and Colombian sides.
His first role as a national coach, Gareca will have his hands full with Brazil and Colombia in Group C, with the likelihood of crossing paths with his native Argentina in the tournament slight as a result.
All-in-all, the number of Argentine coaches leading other South American nations shows how highly regarded this nation’s brand of manager has become.
For the Albiceleste this summer, failure to land the Copa América crown would be a bitter pill to swallow – especially if their potential conquerors are led by an Argentine coach.
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