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Top 5 Argentina Players to Watch at Copa América 2024

Top 5 Argentina Players to Watch at Copa América 2024

The 48th edition of Copa América gets underway on Thursday night, as holders and joint-record winners Argentina take on tournament debutants Canada at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

La Albiceleste ended their 28-year wait for silverware by beating Brazil in the 2021 Copa América Final at the Maracanã, before subsequently defeating Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley and then, slightly more noteworthily, hoisting aloft a third World Cup in 2022, overcoming France on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Thus, the World Champions come into this Copa América as favourites to retain the title, not least because they’re on the easier side of the draw.

Lionel Scaloni’s side are in Group A, along with Chile, Peru and Canada, while the only other teams they have to overcome to reach the final could be Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela or Jamaica- Group B’s quartet.

Thus, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and even hosts United States are all on the opposite side of the bracket, meaning Argentina cannot face any of these fellow heavyweights until the final.

As a result, it would require a major shock not to see the holders feature at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on 14 July, but who are likely to be their key figures throughout the tournament?

Five Players To Watch for Argentina At Copa América 2024

Emi Martínez

The most recent Copa América will always be remembered for Emi Martínez’s contribution because, without him, Argentina would not have won the tournament.

Having only made his senior international debut the week before the Copa against Chile, Martínez’s impressive form during his first season at Aston Villa having earned him the starting spot, this decision would pay off spectacularly.

La Albiceleste easily topped their group unbeaten before swatting Ecuador aside in the quarter-finals in Goiânia, but the semi-final against Colombia would be Dibu’s time to shine.

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Following a 1-1 draw in Brasília, the tie was to be decided by a penalty shootout, with Martínez pulling off three saves, denying Davinson Sánchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona from 12 yards, the latter booking their place in the final.

Across the seven games, Martínez kept four clean sheets and conceded only three goals, while his shootout heroics would be a precursor of what was to come in Qatar, when Argentina overcame Netherlands and France in shootouts, both, in no small part, thanks to saves from him.

For club and country, Martínez has won each of the last six shootouts he’s been involved in while, considering Argentina has contested 18 shootouts since 1990, including five across the last four Copas, his heroics may be required again.

Lisandro Martínez

Lisandro Martínez, somewhat surprisingly, earned only his 17th international cap against Ecuador on Sunday night – although this tally is set to rise as he seeks to establish himself as first-choice.

In the past, including at the World Cup, Nicolás Otamendi and Cristian Romero have been the first-choice pairing, although the former, now 36 years old, has seemingly been usurped in the pecking order by Martínez if their most recent friendly is anything to go by.

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The Manchester United defender has endured a generally miserable club season, making just 14 appearances across all competitions due to foot, knee and calf injuries, with the FA Cup Final victory just his second start since early February.

Nevertheless, now fully fit and raring to go, Martínez is an unquestionable upgrade on Otamendi, taking the world champions to an even higher level.

Enzo Fernández

Another player who wasn’t at his best throughout the Premier League season, sitting out the conclusion to the campaign injured, but likely to be a key figure this summer is Enzo Fernández.

In July 2022, he joined Benfica from River Plate for €10 million before, after making only 29 appearances for the Eagles, as well as six outings at the World Cup, Chelsea paid £107 million to bring him to West London a mere six months later.

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Fair to say, he’s not lived up to the hype for an admittedly erratic and inconsistent Chelsea, with many suggesting the Blues looked better without him, as form picked up when Moisés Caicedo was partnered by Conor Gallagher.

National team manager Lionel Scaloni certainly believes in his talents, likely to form a midfield trio alongside Alexis Mac Allister and Rodrigo De Paul, with Enzo hoping that’ll provide a strong foundation for him to get back to his best.

Lautaro Martínez

Lautaro Martínez comes into this summer’s Copa América following the season of his life, scoring 27 goals in all competitions, 24 of which came in Serie A, helping Inter win the title by a whopping 19 points – while he also won the Capocannoniere for the very first time, the ninth Argentine winner of the top-scorer award.

Despite always being prolific at club level, scoring 129 times in 282 goals for I Nerazzurri, he’s never convinced for the national team, so much so that Julián Álvarez was the first-choice centre-forward at the World Cup, Martínez’s sole start coming in the opener, that infamous defeat to Saudi Arabia.

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However, having ended his 550-day wait for an international goal against Costa Rica in March, it appears Martínez will get his chance at this tournament, leading the line during their most recent friendly against Ecuador at Soldier Field.

So, could this be the tournament – Lautaro comes to the fore and announces himself as a key contributor for Argentina?

Lionel Messi

Last, but by no means least, you didn’t think we were going to highlight Argentine players to watch without mentioning Lionel Messi did you?

The triumph at the Copa América three summers ago, finally, saw Lionel Messi get his hands on international silverware for the first time, before adding the World Cup to his bulging collection 18 months later.

Many predicted that Messi, now 36, would retire from international football after glory in Qatar; on the contrary, he’s featured in nine of their 13 matches subsequently, scoring eight goals, possibly hoping to stick around for another World Cup in 2026.

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Either way, this will almost certainly be his Copa América adieu, the seventh Copa he’ll feature, currently with 13 goals in the tournament.

He is four shy of the joint-record holders Norberto Méndez (1945-1947) and Zizinho (1942-1957), who both netted 17 times, while a run-out against Canada on Thursday will mean Messi has made more Copa appearances than anyone else, currently the joint-record holder alongside Sergio Livingstone on 34.

Messi’s 106 international goals have been scored against 37 different opponents, seeking to add Canada to that list on Thursday, netting in six US states for Argentina, California, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts and Florida, with the 70,000+ who will be packed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium expecting to see him do his thing in Atlanta, Georgia too.


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