Winners of four of the last five Copa America titles, powerhouse Brazil go into the 2011 tournament as one of two favorites to win the trophy again.
With more than 190 million citizens, Brazil is by far the most populated country in South America, and their passion for the game knows no bounds. The list of legends that have played for the Canarinho is lengthy and prominent, including Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Socrates, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, and Cafu, just to name some that immediately come to mind.
However, this year poses one of the more difficult challenges for Brazil in this tournament in the past two decades. With the tournament taking place in Argentina, Brazil will be up against tougher odds, as Lionel Messi and his teammates have more riding on this title run than in any international competition in years.
After multiple disappointments, Argentina have the talent to win the tournament, and will have home-field advantage.
Brazil will also be lacking some of the stars from their World Cup run in 2010. Missing are fixtures Kaka, Felipe Melo, Luis Fabiano, Michel Bastos, Gilberto Silva, Nilmar, Julio Baptista, Klemerson, and Juan, among others.
Hired in July of last year, this will be head coach Mano Menezes's first major test. He will still have a solid core, but there are shortcomings within the team that will make this squad not as strong as in years' past.
Menezes will still have Julio Cesar, among the greatest goalkeepers to have ever played for Brazil, and currently among the best in the world at the position.
This defense is particularly strong with Lucio, Daniel Alves, Maicon, and David Luiz. Brazil has been excellent in defense over the past 20 years, and this group is no different, though it might be a notch weaker than the 2010 World Cup squad.
After goakeeping and defense, the quality level drops off. Midfielders Ramires and Elano are the only players with sufficient international experience, and they are not superstars. Liverpool star Lucas Leiva will likely play a strong role, but he has only 12 caps. The rest of the squad is rather makeshift, with 22-year-old Sandro Ranieri the likely starting defensive midfielder.
The forwards will consist of three players. The main striker will be Robinho, an elite player, but a rather inconsistent one. He will have his AC Milan teammate Alexandre Pato playing alongside him, but Pato is still young, and hasn't quite lived up to his potential. Both Robinho and Pato have something to prove.
Then there's the X-factor for Brazil: Neymar. There is no player on the planet that is generating the type of buzz that this 19-year-old forward has. Neymar is among the world's most sought after players at the moment, and it has more to do with his potential than his results.
In a match against Scotland, Neymar showed flashes of brilliance, and is garnering attention similar to Ronaldo and Denilson before him. However, questions persist about his ability to play at a high level against top competition.
An undeniable talent, Neymar will be the most watched player on the field, as the Santos phenom is exciting but untested. Players like Neymar can perhaps propel this squad to great heights.
Even if Brazil had brought their top players to Argentina for the Copa America, the task of beating their main rivals on Argentina's soil would be difficult, so it will be even more challenging to face a loaded Argentina squad with three or four starters with a limited international resume.
This Brazil team will likely fly through the group stage, but their lack of experience may come into play if they eventually meet up with a more seasoned Argentina squad.
In short, this team seems more about potential than ability.