Copa America Preview: Lionel Messi Takes One More Shot At National Team Trophy In Tournament With No Favorite

The world's oldest continental championship, the Copa America, kicks off on Friday and for one of the first times, the tournament has no clear favorite.

Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain celebrate an Argentina victory.
Jim Rogash / Getty Images

The world's oldest continental championship, the Copa America, kicks off on Friday and for one of the first times, the tournament has no clear favorite.

The 46th playing of the world’s oldest continental championship tournament opens tomorrow when the Copa America begins. Copa America pits 10 South American countries, along with two invited nations from other continents, against each other for a trophy first contested in 1916, as ESPN reports. The 2019 tournament features another level of intrigue, as five-time Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi, who has won every available significant trophy with his club team, Barcelona, will try one more time to win a championship with Argentina, his national team.

Messi’s Argentina again came up short at last year’s FIFA World Cup, suffering elimination at the Round of 16 stage at the hands of eventual champion France. But even though that disappointment was widely believed to be Messi’s final bow at the international level — a level that has never seen him win a trophy — here he is again looking to lead Argentina to their first Copa America title since 1993, according to World Football.

Messi has taken Argentina to four major tournament finals, including the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, site of the 2019 Copa America. But the “Little Magician” and his national team have come up short on all four occasions.

“I want to finish my career and win something with the national team or try as many times as possible,” Messi said in a recent interview, quoted by 90min. “I want to get up, try again. It is the message for children who like to see me. That’s life, stumble and get back up and fight for your dreams.”

While the consensus of experts may be that the 2019 Copa America has no clear cut favorite, host nation Brazil fields what may be the most talented squad, and would have to be considered at least to have an edge in the competition, which has now been won twice in a row by Chile. But Brazil’s best-known and arguably most talented player, Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, will be missing at least from Friday’s opener with Bolivia, according to a Daily Mail report.

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Neymar injured an ankle in a warm-up match against Qatar, who in addition to being the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts, are one of the two — along with Japan — invited countries competing in the Copa America, per ESPN.

Nonetheless, Brazil brings an attack that will be nearly impossible to contain, one led by Messi’s Barcelona teammate Philippe Coutinho, along with Roberto Firmino of European champions Liverpool, and Gabriel Jesus of back-to-back English Premier League winners Manchester City, as CBS Sports reported.

Messi makes his first appearance in the 2019 Copa America when Argentina opens their tournament on Saturday, June 15, facing Colombia. All 26 Copa America matches from Brazil will be carried in the United States by ESPN+, the streaming-only network of sports conglomerate ESPN.