The UP 2024 Copa America Preview, Pt. 1: Argentina and Lionel Messi’s Curtain Call

With the 2024 Copa America rapidly approaching, we will be looking at four nations competing in the tournament: three favorites and an underdog host country. Up first is Argentina, who is looking to bring home its 16th title and give its brightest star perhaps his final triumph in an Albiceleste kit. 

While Argentina never really fell out of the international spotlight, there’s been a true renaissance under Lionel Scaloni. La Albiceleste has won every major competition it has participated in with the 45-year-old manager at the helm, including the trifecta of the 2021 Copa America, the CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions, and most significantly, the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

lionel scaloni

It’s hard to imagine that in 2018, Scaloni, then a manager of little pedigree, was handed the national team program after Jorge Sampaoli had left it in complete disarray. Argentina was a dumpster fire, so much so that the players revolted against Sampaoli during the 2018 World Cup.

With notable football minds like Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Simeone having full public support to get the job, the Argentine Soccer Federation, with little funds and a national team program no respectable manager wanted to touch, gave the job to Scaloni, who had only coached the Argentina U20s for less than a year. A coach with not even a year of managerial experience was tasked to coach Lionel Messi in what would most likely be his final World Cup. The rest is history.

Scaloni was able to transform Argentina back to the world power it was known as, not the mess it had become after Diego Maradona began a coaching merry-go-round that saw the likes of Sergio Batista, Tata Martino, Alejandro Sabella, Edgardo Bauza, and the ill-fated Sampaoli all take command of the team with little success.

Scaloni built a team around Messi that was young enough to look up to, work for, and protect the superstar. His plan paid off in full, with three titles, a coaching record of 46-6-15, and a style that fits the players perfectly.

As the 2024 Copa America looms, Argentina, the reigning champions, are one of three picks to win the title come this summer. Here is a preview of the nation that is the across-the-board favorite to repeat.

Group A and Beyond: The Road to the Final

Argentina has a group it can feel very secure in. With the world champions facing Peru, Chile, and either Canada or Trinidad and Tobago, a first-place finish should be expected. Then, the knockout rounds could have Argentina facing Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, or Jamaica from Group B.

If Argentina gets to the final stages of the tournament, the side could hypothetically face Brazil or Uruguay, the other two major picks of the Copa America, in the final, or perhaps a surprise finalist in Colombia or the United States.

Argentina’s Style of Play

Scaloni implements a 4-3-3 formation, usually with Messi on the right, Lautaro Martínez as his go-to striker, and Angel Di Maria or Nicolás González as his two left winger options. In the midfield it’s Alexis Mac Allister, who is becoming the team’s hustle player that links up with Messi and the forwards.

At the back it’s still Emiliano Martínez in goal with Nicolás Otamendi as the team’s central defensive leader.

At times, Argentina may play a basic 4-4-2, but usually against opponents like Brazil or Bolivia on the road.

Argentina’s Main Stars

Messi is still the no-brainer main attraction, but then the team breaks down as follows: Martínez is a highlight saving, penalty kick stopping, charismatic goalkeeper.

Enzo Fernández is quality in the midfield to help the team link up from midfield to the attack, then Julián Álvarez is one of the world’s most explosive strikers, even coming off the bench for Argentina.


argentina copa america 2024

Argentina’s two main issues are its defense and its age.

Scaloni has struggled to find a defender of the quality to match the days of Roberto Ayala and Walter Samuel, and the back line, led by 36-year-old Otamendi, has become increasingly aged.

Likewise, in attack, Messi and Di Maria are beyond their prime years. Do these senior leaders on the team have one last dance in them to lead Argentina to a back-to-back Copa America title? Messi has been hampered by hamstring injuries and how he survives his next batch of games with Inter Miami will determine how (and if) he shows up to the Copa America.

Another blueprint to beat Argentina might have been found by Uruguay manager Marcelo Bielsa, who implemented an approach of leaving Messi open but heavily marking his passing options. Not only was it one of the most lopsided defeats in the Scaloni era, but it was also Uruguay’s best game under Bielsa.

Wild Cards

thiago almada

It has been long rumored that Scaloni has placed an eye on former MLS golden boot winner and current Lazio striker Taty Castellanos. Then, there is Thiago Almada, who is set to play for Argentina in the Olympics, but could get a call up to Copa America if injuries occur.

Valentín Barco showed a lot of skill and flash at Boca Juniors, and will get his big break in March with the national team.


Argentina is a prime candidate to win the 2024 Copa America, led by the impetus that it could be Messi’s final run with the national team. Di Maria has already stated it’s his final competition for Argentina, and the national team program has a healthy set of young players coming up through the system that could position the nation for years to come.

Out of all the four teams that we will feature in this series of previews, Argentina has the best chance to win the 2024 Copa America.

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