Copa America preview: Eight things to look out for-Xinhua

Copa America preview: Eight things to look out for

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-06-18 16:11:00

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The Copa America will kick off on Thursday when defending champions Argentina meet Canada at the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

This year's tournament, to be played in 14 cities across the United States, will feature the 10 South American nations, plus six from the Confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF).

Here are eight things to look out for in the 48th edition of the world's oldest continental football competition.

1. Can Argentina be champions again?

How times have changed for Argentina. Three years ago, the country's press and fans were openly wondering if the Albiceleste would ever win another major trophy as their title drought approached three decades. That changed when Lionel Scaloni's men beat Brazil in the final of the 2021 Copa America at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium.

Less than 18 months later, they went one better by lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time since 1986 with a penalty shootout victory over France in Qatar.

But can the South American giants make it three major trophies in a row?

Recent results would suggest so. The Albiceleste have been in ominous form of late, having scored three goals or more in three of their past four matches, including a 4-1 rout of Guatemala in their final Copa America warmup fixture last Friday (June 14).

Another triumph in the United States would make Scaloni's side the first team to successfully defend the Copa America while simultaneously holding the World Cup trophy.

2. Is this really the United States' Golden Generation?

Manager Gregg Berhalter has what is arguably the strongest playing list ever assembled by the United States for a major football tournament.

Eighteen of the 26 players named in Berhalter's squad ply their trade in one of Europe's top leagues (England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands).

The midfield looks particularly dangerous, marshaled by Juventus star Weston McKennie, AC Milan's Yunus Musah and Nottingham Forest playmaker Giovanni Reyna.

The attack will be led by Christian Pulisic, who says he is in career-best form after a superb season at AC Milan.

3. Brazil's new Golden Boy

Endrick this month became the youngest player since Pele to score in three consecutive matches for Brazil. But the 17-year-old is no certainty to start for the Selecao at the Copa America.

Head coach Dorival Junior has promised not to ask too much of Endrick during the Copa America as the attacker vies for a place in the starting lineup alongside Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Raphinha, Savinho and Gabriel Martinelli.

"I have always been in favor of giving chances to young players but I just ask for a little patience with the boy so that things can happen naturally," Dorival told reporters earlier this month.

4: Uruguay: The Bielsa effect

Upon his appointment as Uruguay's manager in May last year, Marcelo Bielsa said his role would involve daring the Celeste's players to dream. The team's impressive sequence of results under the Argentine would suggest he is succeeding.

The Celeste have won seven, drawn three and lost two matches under Bielsa's stewardship, a run that has included World Cup qualifying victories over Brazil and Argentina.

Bielsa's 26-man Copa America list includes a balanced mix of youth and experience while boasting an array of world-class talent such as Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde, Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo, Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez and Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez.

Veteran marksman Luis Suarez will likely be an option off the bench, despite his prolific recent scoring form for Inter Miami. Suarez's long-time national team strike partner Edinson Cavani is not a part of the Celeste squad after announcing his retirement from international football in May.

5. Colombia's formidable form

Colombia will deservedly enter the Copa America as one of the tournament favorites. The Cafeteros are unbeaten in 20 matches since Argentine Nestor Lorenzo replaced Reinaldo Rueda as manager in June 2022.

The sequence has included victories over Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and the United States over the past year.

Colombia's strength is a stable defense - led by the center-back pairing of Jhon Lucumi and Carlos Cuesta - and an attack spearheaded by Liverpool winger Luis Diaz.

Perhaps one weak spot is the middle of the park. James Rodriguez and Jhon Arias are the central pieces of a midfield that could lack depth, particularly if injuries strike.

6. Gareca's Copa America record

Chile boss Ricardo Gareca, has a Midas touch in the Copa America, having guided Peru to second and third places in the previous two editions.

The 66-year-old Argentine, who was appointed Chile manager in January, has shown that he is not afraid to make tough decisions as he oversees a generational overhaul of La Roja's squad.

Among those missing from Chile's current playing group are Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel, integral members of the side that won back-to-back Copa America titles in 2015 and 2016.

One veteran who has remained in Gareca's plans is Eduardo Vargas, who was the Copa America's leading scorer in both 2015 and 2016, with four and six goals, respectively.

The 34-year-old Atletico Mineiro forward has 14 Copa America goals, three shy of the record that is jointly held by Argentine midfielder Norberto Mendez and Brazil playmaker Zizinho.

7. The last dance?

While Lionel Messi has not yet entertained the idea of retirement - at least publicly - this will almost certainly be his last Copa America.

Argentina's talismanic captain will turn 37 during the tournament's group stage and he will be 41 when the next edition comes around.

One player who has already made a decision about his future is Messi's long-time national teammate and close friend, Angel Di Maria.

The 36-year-old has confirmed that he will end his 16-year international career after the Copa America.

The Benfica winger has been capped 140 times for his country and, with one World Cup trophy and a Copa America triumph to his name, he is already guaranteed legend status for the Albiceleste. Who would deny him one last shot at glory?

8. Venezuela's high hopes

Venezuela have never progressed beyond the quarterfinals of the continental tournament, having reached the last eight in 2011 and 2016.

But the Vinotinto have good reason to believe this could be their best ever Copa America campaign.

Since Fernando Batista replaced Jose Pekerman as head coach in March 2023, Venezuela have played 12 matches, winning five, drawing five and losing just two.

The encouraging run of results has included victories over Chile and Paraguay and a draw against Brazil in 2026 World Cup qualifiers.