Messi farewell? Vinicius Jr for Ballon d’Or? Copa America starts « Khabarhub
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Messi farewell? Vinicius Jr for Ballon d’Or? Copa America starts

21 June 2024  

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LONDON: The Copa America 2024 started on Thursday – with something of a different look.

But the stars are familiar, with Lionel Messi and Vinicius Jr looking to add to their trophy hauls.

It’s not in South America… and six of the teams are from elsewhere too

South America’s continental championship will be played in the United States.

And six of the 16 teams are from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

It was also the same for the special edition 2016 Copa America Centenario – but this is the first regular staging of the tournament to be played outside of the continent.

Many of the host cities are in southern states such as California, Texas and Florida – but there are stadia further north too including in New Jersey.

The tournament is being seen as preparation for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States – along with Canada and Mexico.

The US, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, Costa Rica and Panama will be the six North and Central American countries joining all 10 South American nations to compete.

US boss Gregg Berhalter is under big pressure, with some fans calling for him to go following a 5-1 warm-up defeat by Colombia.

“I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question,” he said when asked about his future.

“But what I would say is that we do see this as a building block. We see this group as a talented group that’s able to do good things, and we want to use Copa America to show that we’re focused on going as far as we can.”

Most Copas since 1993 have had 12 countries, including two guests – with Japan and Qatar having played in past editions – but the last one in 2021 just had the 10 South American nations.

Messi’s final major tournament?

It could prove to be a final international tournament for one of football’s legends, Argentina forward Lionel Messi, 36. But we have said that before.

The Inter Miami player will turn 39 during the next World Cup in two years.

Asked about the 2026 World Cup, he said recently: “It depends on how I feel, how I am physically and knowing whether I’m at the level to be able to compete and help my team-mates.

“There is still a long time until the tournament, but it goes quickly. I don’t know how I will be in that moment.”

Messi is aiming for a third winners’ medal in a row for his country, after the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup, having never won a senior international tournament until the age of 34.

The final will be played at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami – which is just over 20 miles from the city of Fort Lauderdale, where Messi’s club currently play.

Argentina could become the most decorated Copa America side ever if they win the title again. They are currently joint top with Uruguay on 15 trophies.

Could Brazil win seal Ballon d’Or for Vinicius Jr?

Brazil are the second favourites to win the Copa America, behind Argentina.

The 2019 champions are bidding to lift the trophy for the 10th time – and the fourth this century. Nobody else bar Argentina and Uruguay have won more than two.

Among their best hopes of winning the tournament are forwards Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Endrick – who will all be Real Madrid team-mates next season.

Vinicius Jr is the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or after helping Real win La Liga and the Champions League – with team-mate Jude Bellingham of England also thought to be in contention.

Could a continental tournament for either player this summer be a deciding factor?

Endrick, who has scored three goals in five caps, will join Real Madrid from Palmeiras once he turns 18, a week after the Copa America final.

Journeyman 62-year-old manager Dorival Junior has only been in charge since January.

Can Bielsa finally win Copa America?

Uruguay are managed by Leeds United legend Marcelo Bielsa, who is hoping at the age of 68 to win the Copa America for the first time.

Bielsa was so close in 2004 when he was managing his native Argentina.

Cesar Delgado had put the Argentines 2-1 up against Brazil in the 87th minute but Adriano netted in injury time and Brazil won on penalties in Lima.

That was the last time he was at the Copa America.

Bielsa managed Chile for almost four years but joined just after the 2007 Copa and left months before the 2011 tournament.

How does it work?

There are four groups of four teams, with the two top from each group going into the quarter-finals.

The tournament starts with Argentina v Canada on 20 June in Atlanta, and ends with the final in Miami on 14 July.

Group A: Argentina, Peru, Chile, Canada

Group B: Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica

Group C: United States, Uruguay, Panama, Bolivia

Group D: Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica


Publish Date : 21 June 2024 08:13 AM

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