'This is an opportunity of a lifetime': Meulensteen reacts to Copa America draw
Rene Meulensteen says competing in the Copa America 2020 is the opportunity of a lifetime for the Caltex Socceroos, as Australia's group stage opponents for the tournament were finalised on Wednesday.
Australia were drawn in the ‘South Zone’ of the 2020 Copa America with Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, with all of their group stage matches to be played in Argentina.
The likes of Lionel Messi, Alexis Sánchez, Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani all stand in the way of Australia progressing past the group stage of the tournament, but Caltex Socceroos Assistant Coach Meulensteen says facing stern opposition is cause for excitement, not concern.
“It doesn’t matter who you draw,” Meulensteen told socceroos.com.au.
“For me, it is so exciting, when we first heard we had an opportunity to compete in the Copa America and I was asked what I was thinking, I said ‘you don’t have to ask me, it’s a fantastic opportunity’.
“There are so many strong teams in there, but what I think for Australia is it’s a fantastic opportunity which comes at the right time in our progress and how we’re building the team.
“We need to start competing against nations, strong nations to see where we are, and I think the staff, players and fans are looking forward to this unique opportunity.
“We have to now deal with what’s in front of us, we are very happy with the progress the team is making currently, the most important thing is to have all the best players available so we can field the strongest teams, we can compete.”
The Caltex Socceroos will begin their 2020 Copa America campaign with a baptism of fire against Uruguay in Cordoba, Argentina on June 13, an opponent Australia shares a rich and spiteful history with.
But the challenge won’t get any easier after the Uruguay clash, with the remaining group matches highlighted by a clash with hosts Argentina led by Messi, Sergio Agüero, Paulo Dybala and raft of global superstars.
But it’s a test the Caltex Socceroos are more than up for, and Meulensteen has called on all Australians to shower the streets of Argentina with green and gold and watch it all unfold.
“The biggest thing is, it gives us a great opportunity to test ourselves against all those great South American nations, how often do you get that opportunity?” Meulensteen said.
“It will be an enormous experience and a fantastic learning curve for everyone involved.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I want them to come, as many fans as possible, to experience this unique competition.”