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Copa America predictions: Champion, top scorer, and more

Julian Catalfo / theScore

The 2024 Copa America is finally here. Ahead of the tournament's opening match in the United States, theScore is breaking out the crystal ball and offering up some predictions on a variety of topics.

Most excited about ...

Daniel Rouse: Watching Uruguay. Marcelo Bielsa's high-octane, attacking football is wonderful to watch, and there were few better international jobs for him to land than Uruguay. He made some unpopular decisions in phasing out the likes of Edinson Cavani (retired) and Luis Suarez (likely a substitute), but it made perfect sense when athletic players more suited to Bielsa's methods came to the fore. Darwin Nunez playing between Facundo Pellistri and Brian Rodriguez has created an entertaining strike force. Real Madrid's Federico Valverde, who made his Uruguay debut in 2017, is possibly the best of the bunch and brings bundles of energy to midfield.

Gordon Brunt: Canada-Argentina. It's impossible not to get excited for the opening game of any major tournament. No matter who's playing, optimism is always high for both teams - and this year's Copa America table-setter is no different. Tournament favorite and reigning World Cup champion Argentina takes on a Canada team that's eager to prove it can compete with the best in the world. Facing Lionel Messi and Co. should make for an entertaining first game, but there's the potential for things to go off the rails if Jesse Marsch's side gets overwhelmed.

Breakout star

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Rouse: Jhon Arias. The 26-year-old is justifying his status as a nailed-on starter under Nestor Lorenzo. Arias failed to score in his first 12 Colombia appearances, but he now has a goal in each of his last three caps. It might be a sign the winger is taking his Fluminense form to the international stage, where he's contributed 35 goals and 38 assists and won the 2023 Copa Libertadores since joining the Brazilian club almost three years ago. For Los Cafeteros, Arias is regularly deployed in a central role, where he shows a fine appreciation of space and awareness of his teammates' movements while helping construct Colombia's rapid attacks.

Brunt: Endrick. His path to international superstardom begins in the United States. Most of the soccer world has heard the hype about Brazil's new teenage sensation: The 17-year-old made a name for himself in the country's top flight, playing well enough to earn a transfer to join Real Madrid next season. Now it's time for him to show off his magical left boot at the first major tournament of his burgeoning career. While he might not immediately start for Brazil, the threat of Endrick coming off the bench as a substitute is still enough to strike fear in any opponent.

Biggest flop

Rouse: Mexico. El Tri should finish ahead of Jamaica and Venezuela in Group B, but the men's team has suffered plenty of setbacks in recent years. Mexico finishing third - or even fourth - isn't hard to imagine. And even if it progresses, a lopsided quarterfinal loss is certainly possible. After a drawn-out period of calamities and crushing defeats, head coach Jaime Lozano has tried to move on some of the older players, but there isn't a great deal of quality left in the squad aside from Edson Alvarez and Santiago Gimenez. This is a period of transition for Mexico and more bumps in the road should be anticipated.

Brunt: United States. The U.S. might have home advantage, but that doesn't alleviate fears that the team has stagnated under Gregg Berhalter. The USMNT is good enough to make it out of the group alongside Uruguay, but a quarterfinal appearance will likely be the end of the road. Finishing first or second in Group C likely pits the U.S. against powerhouse Brazil or a Colombia side that destroyed the Americans 5-1 in a friendly earlier this month.

Which 'guest' team will perform best?

John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Rouse: I have more faith in the United States than my colleague does. It'll be fascinating to see how Berhalter's side fares against South America's elite after establishing itself as the top dog in CONCACAF. Thankfully for the USMNT, Group C offers a somewhat soft introduction to the 2024 Copa America; Uruguay is a strong opponent, but the Americans should procure six points from meetings with Panama and Bolivia. Should he come up against pre-tournament foes Colombia or Brazil again in the quarterfinals, does Berhalter have the tactical nous to devise new ways to prey on their vulnerabilities while shoring up the areas where his team was exposed?

Brunt: Canada. With qualifying for the 2022 World Cup a distant memory, Canada officially kicks off a new era under Jesse Marsch. Canada's run to Qatar generated unprecedented excitement in the country before the disappointing results that followed - during and after the World Cup - subdued the popularity of the men's program. But, now that Canada Soccer's search for a new permanent coach is over, there's a renewed sense of optimism with the American in charge of a side that's still got the talent to compete with top teams. It's going to take a gargantuan effort - and probably some luck - to beat Argentina, but few should overlook Canada's chances of pulling off a surprise or two later on in the group phase against an underwhelming Peruvian outfit and an aging Chilean side.

Golden Boot winner

Rouse: Lionel Messi. A kind group draw should give Messi the chance to rack up an impressive goal tally early on. Argentina also finds itself on the easier side of the knockout bracket, meaning it'll need to overcome two teams from Group B - Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Venezuela - to reach the tournament's showpiece. That's an appealing set of fixtures for the finest attacker to ever grace the game, especially when he's been in exceptional form for Inter Miami.

Brunt: Vinicius Junior. Winning the Golden Boot could be what clinches the Ballon d'Or for Vinicius. With Neymar sidelined through injury, the spotlight will shine bright on the Brazilian winger, who'll be central to his country's hopes of winning the tournament for the first time since 2019. After playing a pivotal role in helping Real Madrid win La Liga and the Champions League, the 23-year-old is arguably playing the best football of his career. He could be primed to end his campaign on a high if he can pile up the goals at the Copa America like he did for Madrid last season, scoring 24 times in 39 games.

Tournament final and champion


Rouse: Argentina beats Colombia. Lionel Scaloni's side seems to have a rather straightforward run to the final, with Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay weighing down the tougher half of the knockout bracket. As a result, there should be an opportunity to ease into the tournament and rotate the squad, keeping players fresher and morale high as most members of Scaloni's roster are involved. Oh, and then there's the fact that Argentina is extremely hard to beat, with just two defeats in its last 57 outings.

Brunt: Brazil beats Argentina. Brazil is going to reestablish itself as a global powerhouse in the summer of 2024. And there's no better place to do it than the site of the country's World Cup triumph in 1994. Thirty years after a penalty shootout against Italy sealed Brazil's fourth World Cup, the Selecao return to the States with a squad that shares similar ambitions. There's a wealth of talent at Dorival Junior's disposal, so Brazil's return to title-winning ways will be even sweeter after beating reigning World Cup champion and bitter rival Argentina in the final.

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