Saturday 15 Jun
Updated Saturday 15 Jun 14:00
First Team

Balbuena and Paraguay to kick-off Copa America challenge

Fabian Balbuena

 

Fabian Balbuena and Paraguay kick-off their 2019 Copa America challenge when they take on Qatar on Sunday evening.

The West Ham United defender will hope to make a winning start as the Red and Whites commence their attempt to win a fourth South American title, having previously won the tournament in 1953 and 1979.

The finals began on Friday night, when Brazil hosted Bolivia in Morumbi, followed by Venezuela’s clash with Peru and Argentina’s showdown with Colombia on Saturday.

The latter of those three fixtures is in Group B, which also contains Balbuena’s Paraguay and guest entrants and 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar at the iconic Maracana stadium in Rio.

The two countries have met three times previously, all in friendly internationals, with each winning once and the other ending in a draw.

Paraguay’s opening match will be broadcast live in the UK by Premier Sports 1, which is available to view via Sky channel 412 and Virgin TV channel 551, from 7.55pm on Sunday.

Balbuena was part of Paraguay's squad at both the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals, appearing in a group-stage fixture with the United States at the latter.

Paraguay take on Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Thursday 20 June and Colombia in Salvador on Sunday 23 June in their two remaining Group B fixtures.

The top two teams in all three groups, along with the two best third-place finishers, will reach the knockout stages, with the final taking place in Rio on Sunday 7 July.

Balbuena will be West Ham's sole representative at the Copa America, as Manuel Lanzini and Carlos Sanchez have not been included by Argentina and Colombia respecitvely, while Felipe Anderson has been left out of Brazil's 23-man selection.