Copa America preview and what to expect for the Atlanta matches

Photo courtesy of Mike Stewart AP

The Copa América is an international soccer tournament held every four years where South American national teams compete to be named the best team on the continent. Regular participants include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia,n Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. The Copa América also regularly invites national teams from outside South America. In this year’s tournament, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Canada all earned invitations. The matches are spread across the United States, with games being played in 13 different cities.  Atlanta hosts two games — the opening match of the tournament, – Argentina vs. Canada on June 20, and the United States vs. Panama on June. 27. 

The 2024 Copa América is set to be one of the most intriguing in recent history, with most teams having a case to make a deep run. Leading the pack is Argentina. Argentina are favorites thanks to them winning the 2022 World Cup and the last Copa América in 2021. They are led by strong players, including one of the best ever in Lionel Messi. Brazil are also favorites despite having a weaker side than in previous years. The Brazilians are led by Vinicius Jr., who is arguably the best player in the world, and his dynamic Real Madrid teammate Rodrygo. 

Despite not having the best roster on paper, Colombia might be the most in-form team in the tournament. Led by the electric winger Luis Díaz, Colombia have not lost in  23 matches. 

Uruguay went into the tournament expecting  a strong showing courtesy of  enigmatic forward Darwin Núñez and midfield dynamo Federico Valverde. Finally, the last of the favorites is the United States. Despite not being a traditional soccer power, the United States have plenty of talent, especially captain Christian Pulisic and creative midfielder Gio Reyna. Even outside of the favorites, the tournament is filled with some of the best players in the world.

The tournament kicked off in Atlanta with Argentina playing Canada. Argentina are one of the favorites for the tournament thanks in large part to Messi. Canada is in the process of rebuilding, with new manager Jesse Marsch taking over earlier this year. The game started off evenly with both teams creating chances. Argentina eventually settled into the game but failed to score. The best chance of the first half came from Argentina attacker Ángel Di María whose  shot was smothered by Canadian Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau. Canada also had several good opportunities but failed to truly threaten the Argentina goal. At the end of the first half, the score was still tied at zero. Canada was  happier going into the half with Argentina disappointed at their missed opportunities. 

In the second half, Argentina immediately capitalized on their first chance with forward Julián Álvarez putting them ahead 1-0, thanks to a terrific pass from midfielder Alexis Mac Allister. After going down 1-0, Canada needed to equalize in the second half, but their efforts were not fruitful. With less than two minutes left to play, Argentina secured  the win thanks to striker Lautaro Martínez finishing off a tremendous pass from Messi. Argentina started the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Canada in the hope of once again being Copa América champions.

In the second and final game hosted in Atlanta, the United States will take on Panama. The United States are heavy favorites in the game thanks to dominating North and Central American teams in recent matchups. However, they will face a Panama team that hasn’t lost since playing Trinidad and Tobago in Nov. 2023.. Panama is a team that can upset anyone, beating  the United States in penalties the last time they played. The United States’ squad looks to dominate possession and allow Pulisic and Reyna to pick teams apart. But Panama likely plans to absorb the United States’ pressure. Once they have done so, they can  counter-attack to snatch a win against the run of play.

Overall, the 2024 Copa América will give the United States a chance to showcase the passion they have for soccer. This tournament will be important for Atlanta, too — with the World Cup only a year away, the city can  show why the United States National Team is moving their headquarters to Georgia and prove that it is one of the nation’s premier soccer cities.