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Jun 17, 2024 2:29 pm

Brazil looking to get back on top at Copa America

Vinicius

The 2024 Copa America will be only the second ever to feature 16 teams in four groups, with six guest teams from CONCACAF participating in CONMEBOL’s continental championship.

Play continues with four games over June 23 and 24 to kick off Groups C and D, including the opening game for the host United States.

Here’s the second of Field Level Media’s two-part series previewing the action from what promises to be a memorable event.

Group C

The Teams: United States, Uruguay, Bolivia, Panama

The favorite: While the USA is the top seed in the group as one of two tournament hosts, Uruguay are rightly oddsmakers’ first choice to top the standings at the end of pool play. Though the Celeste are in a transitional moment, there is plenty of talent and pedigree on the squad of former Leeds United boss and world-renowned tactician Marcelo Bielsa.

Best matchup: The USA and Uruguay could be assured of their place in the next round by Matchday 3 in a straightforward group. But they may still wish desperately to win to avoid a particular quarterfinal opponent depending on Group D results. The clash between Bielsa’s man-marking press and American boss Gregg Berhalter’s 4-3-3 is also an interesting test of the expression “styles make fights.”

History Lesson: The majority of Uruguay’s best footballing days came in the earlier portions of the 20th century, and that’s one reason the Celeste share the honor of most Copa America titles with Argentina at 15 each. Uruguay’s last came in 2011, but they haven’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals since.

Players to watch: Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez is an absolute menace wherever he is in the attacking third for Uruguay, if at times a wasteful finisher. His compatriot and Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez is still ruthless in front of the goal, though no longer a 90-minute player. American captain Christian Pulisic is coming off his best European season in his first year at AC Milan and is the engine that makes the USA attack run.

Up Next: The United States are most likely to face Brazil or Colombia in the quarterfinals if they can do what’s expected and advance from the group, and they’ve already played both teams in preparatory friendlies to prepare for the tournament. Conventional wisdom suggests Brazil are the team to avoid. But the friendly results suggest it’s Colombia, which hammered the USA 5-1.

Group D: Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica

The favorite: Brazil are oddsmakers’ clear choice to top their group, but the draw has done the Selecao no favors. Colombia may be the best team in the field that did not receive a top seed in the draw. Paraguay and Costa Rica are solidly a tier beneath that duo but are also nations with plenty of major tournament experience.

Best matchup: With the likelihood that Brazil and Colombia may have little to play for on Matchday 3, the best game here might be Colombia’s opener against Costa Rica in a fixture of teams with more familiarity than you might think. The nations are separated by only the few hundred miles of the Isthmus of Panama. And it was Central America’s Ticos who won these teams’ previous Copa America meeting in 2016.

History Lesson: The good news for Brazil’s 2024 opponents is that they’ve only won four of their nine all-time Copa America titles when they weren’t the host nation. The bad news? All four of those tournament victories have occurred since 1997.

Players to watch: Brazil has an embarrassment of riches in this category, but the feature man is Vinicius Jr., who some believe is the current best player in the world after leading Real Madrid to yet another Champions League title. Liverpool attacker Luis Diaz is probably Colombia’s most dangerous player, and 2014 World Cup Golden Ball winner James Rodriguez brings redemption storyline potential in his first major international tournament since 2019.

Up Next: With all due respect to a good United States team, Brazil and Colombia will be trying hard to avoid a quarterfinal against Uruguay. For Brazil, it would be a potentially explosive match against a historic border rival and the only South American nation to defeat Brazil in a World Cup final-round match.

–Field Level Media

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