Lionel Messi, world champion at the end of 2022 and honored with an eighth Ballon d'Or in October, is offered a new challenge, he who will celebrate his 37th birthday during the continental competition, of which he is the title holder after his only victory in 2021.
He will face Chile in the first round, who beat him twice on penalties in the final of the competition in 2015 and 2016. The Argentines, in group A, will also face Peru and either Canada or Trinidad. and Tobago, who will face each other in play-offs in March.
One of these two teams will have the honor of the opening match in Atlanta (Georgia) against the Argentinian title holders.
“It’s a difficult group,” commented Albiceleste coach Lionel Scaloni, who maintains the mystery over his future at the head of the selection.
The draw took place symbolically in Miami, a city with a Latino accent where the final of the event will take place and a new stronghold of football in North America since the arrival of legend Lionel Messi in July in the Inter Miami squad.
Chance avoided a shock in the first round, Marcelo Bielsa's Uruguay, the scarecrow of hat 2, ultimately crossing paths with neither Argentina nor Brazil in the pools.
In Group D, Brazil will find Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras, another play-off scheduled for March in Texas.
Uruguay will face the United States, Panama and Bolivia in Group C. Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica make up Group B.
As in 2016, for the Centennial Copa already held in the United States, the format expands to 16 teams, the ten usual South American competitors of Conmebol being joined by six members of Concacaf (North America, Central and Caribbean).
The tournament will be “a Copa America of the world”, imagined the president of Conmebol Alejandro Dominguez.
The tournament looks like a small rehearsal for the next World Cup, that of gigantism, contested by 48 countries in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
In addition to the final in Miami on July 14, the Copa will visit Atlanta for the opening match as well as 12 other stadiums in ten states in total which will have the honor of some big names in football.
In addition to Messi and his teammate Angel Di Maria, star Neymar is hoped for by Brazil, after an operation in November following a rupture of the cruciate ligaments of a knee.
Plagued by poor results, Brazil is in the midst of a crisis: the president of its federation Ednaldo Rodrigues was removed from office on Thursday, the day of the draw, by decision of a court which invalidated an agreement which allowed his election.