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Jun 17, 2024 1:50 pm

Lionel Messi, Argentina set to defend Copa America title

messi argentina 2022

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

Play begins with four games over three days in Groups A and B between June 20-22 across the United States.

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

Group A

The teams: Argentina, Peru, Chile, Canada

The favorite: When you have the greatest living player on Earth, you’re going to be a favorite. That’s certainly the case with Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who have an extremely high-quality supporting cast around the still-magical, soon-to-be-37-year-old. Among the best are longtime international sidekick Angel Di Maria, Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez, Liverpool midfielder Alexis Mac Allister and Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez.

Best matchup: Argentina’s second group game against Chile will be a rematch of the 2016 final played in the United States. The current Chilean squad is a long way off from that group which upset Messi’s team on penalties back then, but Alexis Sanchez will still be roaming the pitch as a potential Messi foil.

History lesson: Defending champion Argentina’s 15 Copa America titles are tied with Uruguay for the most in the history of the competition, which is the oldest in international soccer — even predating the Olympic and World Cup tournaments.

Players to watch: Beyond Messi, Sanchez and others we’ve already mentioned, Argentina teenager Alejandro Garnacho scored the Premier League Goal of the season for Manchester United. Canada’s Alphonso Davies is considered one of the best left backs in the world and is a two-way weapon for his national team and Bayern Munich.

Up Next: Frankly, it would be extremely surprising if Argentina doesn’t progress from a relatively straightforward group. It would be less of a surprise if that means they face 2022 World Cup group foes Mexico in the second round if an unimpressive El Tri squad can’t top Group B.

Group B

The teams: Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica

The favorite: Oddsmakers have installed Mexico as the most likely team to top the group, and given the enormous Mexican-American population in the United States, they’ll probably be playing with a home-field advantage in every game. But this is not a vintage El Tri side, and Ecuador in particular could wrest away the top spot. Jamaica also has a roster with several Premier League stars, but they have underachieved recently relative to their talent.

Best Matchup: Mexico and Ecuador will meet on the final day of group B, and while each could’ve already booked their place in the next round, there should be plenty to play for anyway; namely, the potential right to avoid a quarterfinal clash with defending Copa America and World Cup champion Argentina, who still have that Messi guy.

History Lesson: Mexico is by far the most frequent guest team to compete at Copa America and will be making its 11th appearance since 1993 in the traditional South American event. They’ve reached the semifinals an impressive five times and the final twice but haven’t been beyond the quarters since 2001.

Players to watch: Edson Alvarez quickly became one of West Ham’s most important players after his move to the Premier League, and the defensive midfielder might be even more significant for El Tri’s hopes. Chelsea’s Enner Valencia is another world-class central midfielder who will pull the strings for Ecuador. Veteran striker and Alvarez’s club teammate Michail Antonio can strike from anywhere in the attacking half for Jamaica.

Up Next: As mentioned before, finishing top of the group here carries the prize of most likely avoiding Messi in the second round. It’s anyone’s guess whom the group winner could face though, with Canada, Peru and Chile all reasonable picks to finish second in Group A.

–Field Level Media

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