Is There Any Chance In Hell That Messi And Argentina Win The Copa América?
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When the 2019 Copa América kicks off on June 14 with a match between Brazil and Bolivia at the Morumbi in São Paulo, all eyes will be on the hosts, led by captain Neymar, before attentions turn to Salvador the following day for a match between Colombia and Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Brazil (at 7/4) and Argentina (at 3/1) will be the favorites at the 46th edition of the tournament, but it’s strange to think that neither nation has lifted the trophy since the Seleção back in 2007 (you have to go all the way back to ’93 for La Albiceleste’s last South American crown).
In many ways, this is Brazil’s competition to lose.
Although a sixth-place finish at the World Cup was never going to merit an open-top bus parade back home, a one-goal defeat to Belgium’s golden generation in the quarterfinals didn’t signal the death of Brazilian football. It’s now Tite’s time to deliver.
With a squad consisting primarily of talent pulled from PSG, Manchester City, Liverpool and Barcelona, it’s easy to see how it’ll be done.
But standing in the way is Messi — always Messi — and Argentina’s squad of talent pulled from, uh, River Plate and Club América. No disrespect to the aforementioned teams, but if Messi wants to improve on his three runners-up medals at the Copa, he’s going to need to play even better than he did for Barcelona this campaign (that'll be tough since he scored 50 goals in 48 games).
There’s also hope that new manager Lionel Scaloni can rectify the wrongs of previous coaches Jorge Sampaoli and Edgardo Bauza, namely finding some confounded way to connect the lines of defense, midfield and attack.
The new blood is there, but is it any more promising than the old blood? It might be a case of addition by subtraction with Gonzalo Higuaín, but there’s now an anus-sized hole in the team’s defensive midfield without Javier Mascherano.
Let’s take a look at both Brazil and Argentina’s squads by position to get a better understanding of who could triumph at the Maracanã on July 7.
Copa America 2019 Squads For Brazil and Argentina
Franco Armani (River Plate), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors) and Agustín Marchesín (Club América)
Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City) and Cássio (Corinthians)
It’s likely that 32-year-old Franco Armani will be Argentina’s No. 1 this summer. He’s the man that replaced Willy Caballero at the World Cup following Big Willy's howler vs. Croatia. The River Plate shot-stopper has only four caps to his name, but that makes him Argentina’s most experienced keeper.
For Brazil, Alisson, the recent recipient of the Premier League Golden Glove award (he kept 21 clean sheets in 38 games), is perhaps the world’s best, and he’s backed up by Ederson, who is also perhaps the world’s best.
Meanwhile third choice Cássio looks exactly like a third choice keeper should: like a great teammate that likes to party.
Renzo Saravia (Racing Club), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City), Germán Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Nicolás Tagliafico (Ajax), Milton Casco (River Plate) and Marcos Acuña (Sporting CP)
Dani Alves (PSG), Thiago Silva (PSG), Miranda (Inter), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marquinhos (PSG), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians) and Éder Militão (Real Madrid)
With 59 caps, Otamendi is the veteran of Argentina’s backline, but he’s coming off a domestic season in which he lost his place in Man City’s starting eleven. At the opposite end of the spectrum is left back Nicolás Tagliafico, who was an influential presence amongst Ajax’s free-wheeling cherub boys this campaign.
Although there’s no Marcelo, Brazil’s old heads remain: Alves (36), Thiago Silva (34), Miranda (34) and Filipe Luís (33) have combined for 278 caps, but there’s also a bit of movement and pace offered by Marquinhos and Alex Sandro.
Tottenham's Foyth (21) represents the future for Argentina; Militão (21) represents the future for both Brazil and Real Madrid (Los Blancos just purchased him from Porto for $56 million).
Exequiel Palacios (River Plate), Guido Rodriguez (Club América), Leandro Paredes (PSG), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese) and Ángel Di María (PSG)
Fernandinho (Manchester City), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Arthur (Barcelona), Lucas Paquetá (Milan) and Allan (Napoli)
For three years Argentina’s midfield didn’t work, culminating in that fantastic beatdown administered by Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozović. It’s been chopped and chewed. Gone is Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega and Enzo Perez, in comes Pereyra, Paredes and Guido Rodríguez. Much will be expected of 23-year-old Giovani Lo Celso.
In Fernandinho, Casemiro, Allan and Arthur, Brazil possesses four holding midfielders that would waltz into Argentina’s starting lineup.
The weakness of this crew, strangely for Brazil, is the lack of menace going forward. Paquetá is only 21, and although the ability of Coutinho is unquestionable, he’s coming off a hellish season for Barcelona that included only five league goals in 33 games.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Lautaro Martínez (Inter), Matías Suárez (River Plate) and Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Neymar (PSG), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Everton Soares (Grêmio) and David Neres (Ajax)
There’s Messi. There’s Kun Agüero. There's the advantage. Maybe Dybala can add to his total of one goal in 19 games for Argentina? Maybe.
For Brazil, Neymar’s status is more certain than it was at this time last year. He returned to action with PSG following his latest broken foot back on Apr. 27, so he’ll be fully match fit.
The biggest question is who leads the line. After going goalless in five matches at the World Cup and subsequently only scoring seven goals in 29 EPL matches for Man City this season, Gabriel Jesus will likely take a backseat to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.
Richarlison (22), Everton (23) and Neres (22) are young and inexperienced at the international level, but Tite will be looking to them to play without fear in the wide areas.