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Copa America stacks up well against Euro

By Reuters in Nice, France | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-25 07:51

The Copa America has often been dismissed as a poor relation to the European Championship, so much so that the latter has frequently been dubbed by the media as "the World Cup minus Brazil and Argentina."

But a comparison of the two tournaments, which are being played simultaneously for the first time since 2004, suggests it might be time to ditch the old stereotype.

The Copa America, being played in the United States, features World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, five of the top 10 teams in the FIFA world rankings and seven teams that made the knockout stages at the World Cup two years ago.

Its European counterpart in France includes Messi's bitter rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the other five top teams in the FIFA rankings and five of the teams that played the knockout phase in Brazil.

Direct comparisons between the two tournaments are difficult.

The European Championship is regarded as the pinnacle of the continent's international soccer and has been held on a regular basis in tournament form since 1980.

The Copa America, its South American equivalent, has had a patchy history, although it goes back much further.

At one point during the 1980s, there was no tournament at all. Instead, teams played two-leg home-and-away ties all the way to the finals.

During the 1990s, it was held every two years, which proved too often, and many countries would send reserve teams.

Now it takes place every four years, most recently in Chile last year.

Brazil's Neymar was among those who did not take part, his country preferring to save him for the Olympic tournament in August.

Still, the Copa does not come out unfavorably in a comparison between the two, with attendances almost even.

UEFA said the first 26 matches at the Euro were watched by 1.2 million fans, an average of 46,153, while the Copa's average so far is slightly below at 45,108.

Television audience numbers are more difficult to compare as CONMEBOL said it only currently has them for domestic US audiences, rather than worldwide.

However, it said group stage matches had an average audience of 3.8 million viewers, despite having to compete with the NHL and NBA playoffs and Major League Baseball.

UEFA said each of the 51 matches at Euro 2016 was expected to attract than 130 million viewers worldwide.

But it is on the field where the 16-team Copa may have come out winning, producing 90 goals, at an average of exactly three per match, compared to an average of just 1.92 at the 24-team European championship.

"On this side of the Atlantic, most players think firstly about dribbling and the top strikers in the teams at the Copa America have this in their soul," said former Argentina international Diego Latorre, writing in his country's La Nacion newspaper.

US coach Juergen Klinsmann predicted the Copa could be more interesting than the Euro following its expansion from 16 to 24 teams.

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