On Sunday night at New York City's Manhattan Center, new manager Juan Antonio Pizzi represented Chile at the Copa America Centenario 2016 Official Draw, where La Roja, the defending champions, saw themselves drawn with Argentina, Panama, and Bolivia.
Chile-Argentina Headlines Group D Matches
Now, most reactions to this slate of games in Group D are centered around the rematch of the 2015 Copa America final at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago de Chile, where Chile claimed victory over Lionel Messi and company. But the fact of the matter is, assuming Chile are able to handle their fixtures with Panama and Bolivia, what should be two easy victories, the outcome of the Argentina match may not mean all that much.
In fact, being in the same group as Argentina will be a dream come true for Chile and the tournament's excitement.
The emergence of both top CONMEBOL sides from the group will ensure no match between the two until the competition's final. A rematch of the final, this time on neutral soil of MetLife Stadium in New York/New Jersey, is the best Copa could ask for in its centennial year of existence.
Slate Of Competition Up Ahead For La Roja
"Obviously, facing Argentina brings extra difficulty," noted Pizzi to VAVEL after the draw. "It's always difficult to play against them. Not only for the quantity of their players but the fact that they have probably the best player in history in Lionel Messi. We think we can compete, we have players at a good level who are playing in the best leagues in the world, and we will compete to see what happens."
Now, Pizzi is certainly not taking Panama and Bolivia lightly, as Panama is coming off a third-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup and a 4-0 shellacking of Cuba to get to their first Copa America, while Bolivia has been part of the event for a long time and can always make for an upset.
"With the difficulty that everyone has, we have to have confidence to advance, with respect to all the rivals," said Pizzi. "They are going to be tough matches for everything that it means to be in a Copa America, for the strength that there are in those countries. I tend to respect all our opponents, and I have a lot of admiration for the coaches."
Chile opens Copa play this summer against Argentina at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara on June 6th, followed by matches with Bolivia and Panama on the east coast on the 10th and 14th of the month.
Assuming they are able to get by their matches with a pair of wins, most likely not over the Argentine side, Chile should be able to coast in the knockout stages, where they won't have to worry about facing their rivals in blue until a potential final appearance. That is a true blessing.
"It's going to be a tough Copa America and we will try to be the best we can be.''