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Copa America 2024 Preview: Tactics, Key Players & Predictions

Copa America 2024, the 48th edition of the world’s oldest continental football competition, will kick off in just a few days.

For the second time in its history, the Copa America will be held in the United States, meaning it will include six teams from CONCACAF and the 10 constituents of CONMEBOL.

Here is all you need to know about the 16 contesting teams:

🇦🇷 Argentina

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #1
Copa America History: 43 previous appearances; best result: Champions (2021, 1993, 1991, 1959, 1957, 1955, 1947, 1946, 1945, 1941, 1937, 1929, 1927, 1925, 1921)
Major International Trophies: Two FIFA World Cups and 15 Copas America

Tactics

Lionel Scaloni’s switch to a freer tactical system was credited as one of the keys to Argentina’s World Cup triumph. He should be expected to let his players do their thing, so Enzo Fernandez and Alexis Mac Allister will be tasked with getting the ball forward.

Rodrigo De Paul will do the dirty work in midfield, Julian Alvarez will make off-ball runs in the final third, and an Inter Miami forward will be the key to unlocking opposition defences.

Key Player

Lionel Messi. No need to explain this one.

Expectations and Prediction

As holders of the World Cup and Copa America, nothing short of another trophy will be seen as a success for Argentina. This will almost certainly be Lionel Messi’s last Copa America, so he and his teammates will want to see him go out on top.


🇵🇪 Peru

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #32
Copa America History: 33 previous appearances; best result: Champions (1939, 1975)
Major International Trophies: Two Copas America

Tactics

Jorge Fossati only took over the Peru job at the start of 2024 and will make his competitive debut in charge of them at the Copa, so we cannot say too much about his tactics.

Based on a few friendlies, we can predict a 3-5-2 formation that will look more like a 5-3-2 as they spend most of their time defending against stronger opponents.

Key Player

Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese could be playing his last Copa America in the US. If so, his side will need him to save his best for last as he can expect a good few shots to come his way in all matches.

Expectations and Prediction

Although Peru are the second-highest ranked team in Group A as far as FIFA is concerned and were drawn from Pot 2, it would be tough to suggest that they are the second-best team in the group.

They have reached the semi-finals in four of the last five editions of this tournament, but that record is likely to take a hit this year.

🇨🇱 Chile

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #42
Copa America History: 40 previous appearances; best result: Champions (2015, 2016)
Major International Trophies: Two Copas America

Tactics

Former Peru manager Ricardo Gareca, who led them to a memorable final in 2019, is in a similar position to Fossati, having only taken charge of Chile in January.

He was hired after their worst-ever start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, with the hope that his famed 4-4-2 block brings them much-needed defensive stability.

Key Player

Chile are in transition between generations as Arturo Vidal has not been included in the squad and Alexis Sanchez did not see much club action in 2023/24.

Meanwhile, Marcelino Nunez and Dario Osorio are being heralded as the country’s next big talents. However the experience and stability of Erick Pulgar could prove crucial in the heart of the midfield.

Expectations and Prediction

Given their coaching change and dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, hopes cannot be too high for Chile going into the Copa.

Although they will try their best to avoid it, they could be knocked out of the group stage for the first time in two decades.

🇨🇦 Canada

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #49
Copa America History: N/A
Major International Trophies: Two CONCACAF Championships/Gold Cups

Tactics

The final team in Group A also have a new head coach in Jesse Marsch, but his previous track record makes it easy to picture what his side will look like.

Canada should line up in a 4-4-2 formation and look to press to some extent off the ball, while their attacking play will be marked by quick interplay.

Key Player

It is hard to believe that Alphonso Davies is only 23 years old, as he has been part of the Canadian national team since 2017.

Although he will start at left-back, Marsch has stated his intentions to make the most of him in an attacking sense, so he could be the difference-maker in the final third.

Expectations and Prediction

It would be unfair to ask too much of Canada on their Copa America debut, especially in a group where they are the lowest-ranked team.

However, their rivals’ issues mean they have a golden opportunity to make it to the knockout stage and should aim for that at least.

🇲🇽 Mexico

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #14
Copa America History: Ten previous appearances; best result: Runners-up (1993, 2001)
Major International Trophies: 12 CONCACAF Gold Cups

Tactics

Jaime Lozano took over the Mexican national team job precisely 12 months ago, having previously spent three years with the under-23s between 2018 and 2021.

A focus on youth development seems to be his agenda based on his squad selection, and his tactics are also quite progressive as he sets his side to patiently dominate the ball in a 4-3-3 formation.

Key Player

Lozano will rely on a bit of individual brilliance in the final third, and based on the profiles in the predicted starting XI, Julian Quinones is likeliest to provide that.

His side will hope to see his brilliant domestic form for Liga MX champions Club America carry over to the Copa.

Expectations and Prediction

Mexico are the highest-ranked team in Group B but are a little tough to predict given the squad overhaul Lozano has undertaken. Their aim will be a knockout spot at least.

🇪🇨 Ecuador

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #29
Copa America History: 29 previous appearances; best result: Semi-finals (1959, 1993)
Major International Trophies: N/A

Tactics

Former Qatar manager Felix Sanchez has not changed his ways after joining the side that rather humbled the Maroons on their World Cup debut at home.

So, expect Ecuador to look to dominate possession and slow things down, making their games very low-scoring affairs.

Key Player

Moises Caicedo might not have had the smoothest season for Chelsea, but he will remain a key figure in this Ecuador side thanks to his quality and role in implementing Sanchez’s style of play by dictating the tempo of the game from midfield.

Expectations and Prediction

Ecuador are one of just two CONMEBOL teams to have never won the Copa and have been knocked out of the group stage on seven of the last nine occasions.

They have a golden chance to go through to the knockout stage owing to their quality and balance as well as their opponents’ weaknesses.

🇻🇪 Venezuela

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #54
Copa America History: 19 previous appearances; best result: Semi-finals (2011)
Major International Trophies: N/A

Tactics

Historically and at present, Venezuela are one of the weakest teams in CONMEBOL.

An acceptance of that is reflected in their tactics, which are very defence-focused and often involve setting up in a 5-4-1 low block out of possession against such strong opponents.

Having conceded just three goals in World Cup qualifying, they have yielded the rewards of this approach of late.

Key Player

Yangel Herrera was quietly important for the high-flying Girona even though more eye-catching players like Aleix García stole the spotlight.

Between his high-volume defensive work rate and ability to pop up in the danger area at the right times to score, he has everything Venezuela need to execute their style of play.

Expectations and Prediction

Venezuela had to pack their bags without a win at the last Copa, so they will hope to change that this year. If they do manage to pick up three points from a single match, a knockout spot won’t seem far out of reach at all.

🇯🇲 Jamaica

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #55
Copa America History: Two previous appearances; best result: Group stage (2015, 2016)
Major International Trophies: N/A

Tactics

Heimir Hallgrimsson was the famed dentist who led Iceland in an unforgettable 2016 European Championship campaign, so Jamaica will hope to see a repeat of that eight years on.

He will set his side up to defend in a very compact block and punch back on the counter, making the most of the quality of their wingers.

Key Player

Leon Bailey will not be at the Copa despite being named in the squad due to an ongoing dispute with the Jamaica Football Federation, so former Leicester City winger Demarai Gray will have to step up and deliver to ensure that the Reggae Boyz still pose a significant attacking threat.

Expectations and Prediction

Jamaica have appeared at the Copa America twice in the past but are yet to take away a point or even score a goal at the tournament. At the very least, they should look to change that this time around.

🇺🇸 United States

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #11
Copa America History: Five previous appearances; best result: Semi-finals (1995, 2016)
Major International Trophies: Seven CONCACAF Championships/Gold Cups

Tactics

Gregg Berhalter has done a decent amount of chopping and changing in his time as US head coach, but he seemed to find a formula for the Copa at the very end of the CONCACAF Nations League: a 4-3-3 formation with advancing full-backs and two of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams supporting one free creator in Giovanni Reyna.

Key Player

Just a few months ago, it was unclear where Giovanni Reyna would even be starting for the US at the Copa America. His creative threat will be the key to unlocking the deep defences of Panama and Bolivia to get them through to the knockout stage.

Expectations and Prediction

The US are the best-ranked CONCACAF team at this tournament so they will hope to go through to the semi-finals. A knockout spot is the bare minimum expectation.

🇺🇾 Uruguay

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #15
Copa America History: 45 previous appearances; best result: Champions (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011)
Major International Trophies: Two FIFA World Cups, 15 Copas América

Tactics

All you need to know about Uruguay’s tactics is that they are coached by Marcelo Bielsa. They will press and defend with great intensity against any opponents and look to pose a fairly direct attacking threat.

Key Player

Darwin Nunez will epitomise Bielsa’s style of play with nonstop pressing and relentless attacking movement. Uruguay’s defence seems pretty sorted but where they will get their goals from is a bit of a question, so they will hope the Liverpool forward can answer it.

Expectations and Prediction

In a tournament where none of the top contenders seem perfectly balanced, the well-roundedness of this Uruguay side and their defensive solidity could be the platform they build on to lift their first trophy in over a decade.

🇵🇦 Panama

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #45
Copa America History: One previous appearance; Group Stage (2016)
Major International Trophies: N/A

Tactics

Thomas Christensen has done a tremendous job with Panama since taking charge in 2020.

He has won precisely half of his 62 matches in charge of Los Canaleros, guiding them to the Nations League knockouts and taking them up 40-odd spots in the FIFA rankings.

He has done so by establishing an expansive possession-based style of play that is sure to impress viewers.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Key Player

Houston Dynamo midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla is Panama’s best and most well-rounded player. He is excellent on the ball thanks to his close control and forward passing, but will have to work hard to keep things tight defensively.

Expectations and Prediction

Panama may be slightly disappointed to have been drawn in Group C with two clearly stronger teams because they could have had a serious shot at the knockouts in another place like Group A. Still, expect them to give the favourites a decent run for their money.

🇧🇴 Bolivia

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #85
Copa America History: 28 previous appearances; best result: Champions (1963)
Major International Trophies: One Copa America

Tactics

Bolivia are the lowest-ranked team at the Copa America and are far from the most enjoyable to watch. The only realistic chance they have at getting a result is by frustrating their opponents in a low block for ninety minutes and hoping to get a lucky break going forward.

Key Player

This Bolivia side is desperately short of creativity, but one man who might be able to conjure up something is Ramiro Vaca. He has six assists to his name for domestic giants Bolivar this year, including two in the Copa Libertadores.

Expectations and Prediction

The only reason Bolivia are a respectably competitive team in CONMEBOL is the massive home advantage they get in the heights of La Paz, but their record is rather dismal closer to sea level. So, even a point or two would be a good outcome for them at this tournament.

🇧🇷 Brazil

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #5
Copa America History: 37 previous appearances; best result: Champions (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2019)
Major International Trophies: Five FIFA World Cups, Nine Copas America

Tactics

Brazil have endured a fair bit of turmoil since the 2022 FIFA World Cup as coaches have come and gone and an identity crisis has developed.

Just two wins in four matches under Dorival Junior has not been an ideal start, but he will hope that the star power of his players shines through in their fluid possession-based approach.

Key Player

Champions League winner Vinicius Junior has been one of the most exciting wingers in world football over the last couple of seasons, but he has not won any major trophies with his national team.

When push comes to shove on the big day, he could well take matters into his own hands and come up with a moment of magic that makes the difference.

Expectations and Prediction

Brazil only ever enter any international tournament to try and win it, but they will face a couple of tough challenges this time. As long as they do not create any problems for themselves, it is always tough to bet against them.

🇨🇴 Colombia

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #12
Copa America History: 23 previous appearances; best result: Champions (2001)
Major International Trophies: One Copa America

Tactics

Nestor Lorenzo is yet to taste defeat after two years in charge of Colombia, so his 4-2-3-1/4-3-1-2 system is clearly working brilliantly.

Colombia’s narrowness makes them tough to play through and allows them to get a good deal of attackers in dangerous central positions, so they have found a great balance with this approach.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Key Player

Luis Daaz was the top scorer at the last Copa America and should look to repeat the trick. With an even more solid base in the side supporting him both defensively and by feeding him the ball, the Liverpool winger will get a fair few chances to make that happen.

Expectations and Prediction

Colombia only have one major international trophy to their name, but they could well be dark horses to get a second this time around.

Like Uruguay, they will count on their well-roundedness and stability to give them the upper hand against opponents who are stronger on paper.

🇵🇾 Paraguay

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #56
Copa America History: 38 previous appearances; best result: Champions (1953, 1979)
Major International Trophies: Two Copas America

Tactics

Paraguay have played six World Cup qualification matches so far in this cycle, and not a single one of those games has seen multiple goals scored. Like many underdogs, they will adopt a defence-focused approach in a low block and look to frustrate their opponents.

Key Player

Palmeiras’ Gustavo Gomez will lead Paraguay’s defensive effort as captain and centre-back, so he will play a crucial role in terms of winning duels and marshalling the back line to ensure it is not breached from elsewhere.

Expectations and Prediction

Paraguay cannot realistically consider themselves better than Brazil or Colombia, but the least they can do is give themselves a chance by making life difficult for their opponents.

🇨🇷 Costa Rica

Statistical Record

Current FIFA Ranking: #52
Copa America History: Five previous appearances; best result: Quarter-finals (2001, 2004)
Major International Trophies: Three CONCACAF Championships/Gold Cups

Tactics

Gustavo Alfaro took charge of Costa Rica less than a year ago in November, but even in such a short time he has used everything from a 4-2-3-1 to back-five formation.

Either way, defensive solidity must be the number one priority, while the right amount of freedom for the attackers could make something happen up front.

Key Player

Without experienced campaigners such as Keylor Navas, Costa Rica will have quite a youthful team at the Copa.

Their front line could well be comprised entirely of under-23s, but even among them the experience of Manfred Ugalde will stand out.

He has been in Europe since 2020 and has done well in Belgium and the Netherlands, so he certainly has the quality to stand out in this side.

Expectations and Prediction

The two clear favourites in Group D mean a knockout spot is realistically off the table for Costa Rica, so they should focus on giving a good account of themselves in the US.

Stats courtesy FIFA, Transfermarkt, and Opta via Fbref and FotMob.

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