Christian Pulisic felt the United States made a flying start to the Copa America with their impressive victory over Bolivia in Texas.

Milan star Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike into the top corner, and he added an assist for Folarin Balogun as the USA opened their campaign with a 2-0 win on home soil on Sunday.

Pulisic became only the second USA player after Clint Dempsey to register a goal and an assist in a Copa America match, while he is also now the country's quickest player to reach 30 goals, doing so in his 69th game.

An inspired performance from the captain also ended a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament, given Gregg Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

Pulisic felt that USA could easily have won by a greater margin, with the strong performance making a statement ahead of their next group games against Panama and Uruguay.

"We should build some confidence from this and feel good," Pulisic said after the game.

"We came out flying with a lot of intensity and obviously that early goal helped us a lot.

"It's Copa America, it's a big tournament. I feel like I'm always pretty excited after I score, but it's a big moment, it's a major tournament.

"All around, it was a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there.

"The games are just going to get tougher and tougher as the tournament goes on, so we have got to be ready." 

Defender Antonee Robinson also felt USA could easily have won by more.

"If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical," the Fulham player said. "We could have put another two or three goals away, but getting off to a win to start with is massive for us.

"Build the confidence, show we are here to win, here to play and it puts us in good stead for the next game."

USA head coach Berhalter was delighted with the impact made by Pulisic, whose opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037.

The tournament hosts racked up 20 shots, finding the target with eight, compared to tallies of six and three respectively for Bolivia.

As part of an all-action display, Pulisic created three chances, sent in 10 crosses and superbly completed 21 of the game-high 22 passes he attempted in the final third.

"He is a selfless leader," said Berhalter. "He goes out and competes and works really hard. That helps the team.

"Then you add to the fact that he is highly skilled and can make plays on the offensive end and create chances. It is a great combination, and what you see is him supporting his teammates, him backing guys, him pushing guys. 

"To me, it was an outstanding performance. He got coach's man of the match and it was much deserved.

"We will always look at chance creation as a marker of performance, and I think we created enough chances. 

"I like the performance for an opening game against a difficult opponent. We are in a good position."

Bolivia, meanwhile, have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and USA.

They face Uruguay, who won their opener 3-1 against Panama, on Thursday.

USA will play Panama earlier on the same day before concluding their Group C campaign against Uruguay on July 1.

Christian Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike and another assist as the United States opened their Copa America campaign with a 2-0 triumph over Bolivia on Sunday.

Gregg Berhalter's side never appeared troubled in a routine victory at AT&T Stadium in Texas, thanks to the solo endeavours of captain Pulisic in their Group C opener.

The Milan forward needed just three minutes to curl in a sublime opener before teeing up Folarin Balogun – who another strike ruled out after the interval – just moments before the break in a one-sided first half.

Bolivia rarely seemed likely to forge a comeback as the USA managed a winning start to a Copa campaign for the first time since the 1995 edition when they defeated Chile 2-1 in Uruguay.

Antonio Carlos Zago's side did not heed an early warning when goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra was forced to rush out and clear in front of Balogun.

Bolivia were caught napping just minutes later as Timothy Weah worked a short corner with Pulisic, who coasted inside before curling into the top-right corner from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the area.

Weah – son of legendary forward George – was denied from point-blank range as the USA almost doubled their lead immediately.

Yet Berhalter's host nation would soon add to their advantage in Arlington.

Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

His routine tap-in from inside the six-yard area was ruled out for offside as Weah had rushed forward to capitalise on Weston McKennie's pass before sliding across for his attacking partner.

Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

Pepi was denied by fine Viscarra reflexes late on as the USA coasted to an opening victory before their next meeting with Panama on Thursday, a day before Bolivia face Uruguay.

Pulisic stars in rare USA win

Pulisic was tipped by many as the USA player to keep an eye on at the Copa America, and the Milan man delivered in emphatic fashion in this opener.

Fresh off the back of scoring 15 goals across all competitions for the Serie A giants, Pulisic's opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037 – yet that was no problem for the USA captain.

His headline-worthy effort halted a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament as well given Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

Victory also marked the USA's first Copa triumph over Bolivia in just their second attempt, avenging for a 1-0 defeat way back in 1995 when Marco Etcheverry scored the winner.

Bolivia wait goes on

Bolivia were seeking a win against a CONCACAF opponent in Copa action for the first time since the 1997 edition.

They defeated Mexico 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted 27 years ago, though a wait for another such victory must continue after a drab showing in Texas.

Carlos Zago won this competition as a player with Brazil in 1999 but his side have a long way to go if they are to even escape their group in the USA.

Bolivia have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA.

Adil Rashid lauded the match-winning abilities of Chris Jordan and Jos Buttler after England secured their T20 World Cup semi-final spot on Sunday.

England smashed the United States with a 10-wicket victory as Buttler powered an eye-catching 83, smashing six fours and seven sixes from just 38 balls.

Matthew Mott's white-ball side reached their 116-run target with a huge 62 deliveries to spare, sealing their place in the last four with ease after only just sneaking into the Super 8s phase.

Yet the convincing victory would not have been possible without Jordan, who managed four wickets from five balls – including a hat-trick – to end the USA's innings inside 19 overs.

Rashid, who also took 2-13 from his four-over spell, lavished praise on the England bowler, as well as captain Buttler.

"CJ's a match-winner," Rashid said in his post-match interview. "He's been doing it for a number of years, especially at the back end.

"Jos is a world-class player and has been for many a year, and hopefully we can carry it on now in the semi-finals."

Rashid was keen to share the credit among the entire England line-up, too.

"All the bowlers bowled extremely well and to restrict them to 115 was very pleasing," the leg-spinner added. "Always nice to keep it tight and get an early wicket which brings the new batter in.

"With the wind, you have to assess which end you're going to bowl. The googly's been coming out nicely, too."

Buttler seemed intent on a one-man demolition in England's chase, crunching the United States all over the pitch, including hammering 30 runs off Harmeet Singh's ninth over.

"I thought if we could bring our intensity we'd be too good," Buttler said. "I'm still one of the 11, I've got to do my job."

"We've got great options. We wanted to bring Chris Jordan back, adding a bit of depth with his batting capabilities as well. A World Cup hat-trick is a great effort."

The USA saw their World Cup run come to an end, but their victory over Pakistan will live long in the memory.

Aaron Jones, the star of the USA for much of the tournament, hopes to have put cricket on the American map.

"This is our first World Cup," he said. "I don't think people would have thought we'd be playing here against the big boys.

"Hopefully this will open the eyes of the American public. We've got a lot of calls and messages of support during this World Cup."

England booked their place in the T20 World Cup semi-finals after sauntering to a 10-wicket thrashing of the United States on Sunday.

Chris Jordan excelled at the end of the USA's innings, taking a hat-trick to finish with remarkable figures of 4-10, while Jos Buttler plundered 83 off 38 balls to see England over the line with 62 deliveries to spare.

Reece Topley, who failed to take a single wicket in the defeat to South Africa, set the tone early on as he snared Andries Gous for eight in the first over.

Though Nitish Kumar (30) and Corey Anderson (29) looked to be finding a rhythm for the tournament co-hosts, it did not last long, with Jordan entering the fray to get four wickets in five balls and bowl the USA out for just 115 in 18.5 overs.

England’s openers got all the work done themselves as Phil Salt scored 25, while Buttler did all the heavy lifting in his knock, smashing six fours and seven sixes, one of which hit the stadium roof.

Matthew Mott's side are the first team through to the last four thanks to their significant net run-rate advantage over West Indies and South Africa, who meet later on Sunday.

Data Debrief: Firing on all cylinders

Jordan became the eighth player to take a hat-trick of wickets at the T20 World Cup, but he also broke a record out in the field; he now has the most catches by a fielder (47) in T20Is for England, overtaking Eoin Morgan's 46.

Buttler got his first half-century of the tournament in this match, and scored 32 of his 83 runs in a single over, scoring five sixes in the ninth before getting another at the start of the 10th to seal the win for England.

Harry Brook says England are out to give the United States "a good battering" in Sunday's T20 World Cup contest as they bid to clinch a place in the last four.

Having beaten West Indies and lost to South Africa thus far in the Super 8s, England can all but secure a semi-final berth with a convincing win over the co-hosts in Barbados.

A good run-rate could prove pivotal in Group 2, where there is a chance of England, South Africa and West Indies all finishing on four points.

With that in mind, Brook has backed Jos Buttler's team to go on the offensive, saying: "We've got to win and then obviously see how we are on net run-rate but the main thing is to definitely get that win.

"We've played in Barbados quite a lot in the past six months so we know the conditions, we know the wind and the pitch as well so hopefully we can go out there and give them a good battering.

"I haven't actually seen them play, just a few highlights here and there of their bowlers, but we'll do our analysis and have a proper look to make sure we're ready for the game."

Net run-rate was the only thing that helped England survive the group stage, as they narrowly edged out Scotland to finish second behind Australia.

"We've been there before," Brook added. "We've got to concentrate on winning it first and then we'll have a chat and see what the run-rate says."

West Indies hammered their fellow T20 World Cup hosts the United States by nine wickets to put themselves in the driving seat for a semi-final spot.

Having lost their opening Super 8s match to England, the Windies bounced back in style in Barbados on Friday.

Shai Hope's unbeaten 82, which came from 39 balls and included eight sixes, three of which came on the bounce, saw West Indies surpass the target of just 129 within 11 overs.

Hope was recalled to the team after an injury to Brandon King, but will be a tough drop for Rovman Powell now.

The USA had made a promising start, but slipped from 51-1 to 65-4 in the space of three overs, with Andre Russell the pick of the Windies' bowlers (3-31).

They were skittled out for 128, with Hope, Johnson Charles (15) and Nicholas Pooran (27 not out) wasting little time in securing a margin of victory that sends West Indies above England in Group 2, while their net run rate is also superior to South Africa's.

The Proteas are West Indies' final opponents, while defending champions England face the USA in their last Super 8s match.

Data Debrief: Windies in fine fettle

West Indies have now won nine of their 11 T20Is in 2024, after winning eight games in each of 2022 and 2023.

Their tally of victories this year matches 2021 as their best effort in a single calendar year.

They have also won five of their last seven T20Is at Kensington Oval, and their last three in a row.

Tyler Adams believes winning a knockout match is the real measure of success for the United States at the Copa America.

The USA are the host nation of the 2024 Copa America, and they kick-start their campaign against Bolivia on Sunday.

Gregg Berhalter's team will also face Panama and Uruguay in Group C, which they are predicted to progress from in second place, according to Opta's supercomputer.

And while taking nothing for granted ahead of facing the tournament's worst-ranked team, Adams believes a true litmus test for the USA would be progressing beyond the quarter-finals.

"For me, it's getting past the quarter-final," said Adams.

"We need to – in a pressure situation – win in a knockout. That's going to measure a lot of our success."

Defender Mark McKenzie added: "When you talk about some of the most watched games, I think aside from the World Cup, you look at the Copa America.

"You talk about countries that have won multiple World Cups, in Uruguay and Argentina and Brazil.

"You have the opportunity now to step into this tournament and go head-to-head with them. Ultimately, it's usually a South American tournament and now we have the opportunity to play against them."

Carlos Zago won the Copa America with Brazil in 1999, and the Bolivia head coach is out to cause an upset at the AT&T Stadium.

"The most important thing is for us to compete," Zago said.

"We have to try to play on an equal footing with the big teams in terms of intensity and physicality."

Bournemouth midfielder Adams also made a bullish statement in regards to his own ability.

"When I'm healthy and playing consistently, I'm one of the best midfielders at what I do in the world," he said, as reported by the Daily Mail.

"I'm not a politician, I don't need to persuade anyone."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

United States - Christian Pulisic

Pulisic, who will captain the Stars and Stripes at this tournament, is their chief playmaker and also a potent goal threat.

Indeed, he is coming off his best season in terms of goals scored at club level, having netted 15 times for Milan in 2023-24.

Bolivia - Carlos Lampe

Carlos Lampe (nine) is two matches away from equalling Arturo Lopez (11) for the third-most appearances among goalkeepers for Bolivia in the Copa America.

Only Eduardo Gutierrez (12) and Vicente Arraya (20) have played more matches in goal for Bolivia in the competition.

MATCH PREDICTION: UNITED STATES WIN

The USA and Bolivia have faced each other only once in the Copa America, and it was a victory for the South American team, 1-0 at Estadio Parque Artigas in Uruguay during the group stage of the 1995 edition, thanks to a goal by Marco Etcheverry.

However, the USA are backed to win this time, even though CONMEBOL teams have won eight of the last 10 matches against the Stars and Stripes in the Copa America, including the two most recent: Argentina 4-0 USA (semifinals in 2016) and Colombia 1-0 USA (third-place match in 2016).

Bolivia will seek a win against a CONCACAF opponent in the competition for the first time since the 1997 edition when they defeated Mexico 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted.

Expect Bolivia to go long more often than not. So far in the South American Qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, Bolivia (along with Paraguay) have the highest average passing distance (20.5 meters).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

USA - 58%

Bolivia - 21%

Draw - 21%

West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase believes it is his country's destiny to win the T20 World Cup following their nine-wicket victory over fellow co-hosts the United States.

The 32-year-old took 3-19 as the USA were bowled out for 128, with Shai Hope hitting an unbeaten 82 from 39 balls as the Windies leapfrogged England in the race for the semi-finals. 

"It is our destiny and our goal to win this World Cup," Chase said after the victory. "We want teams to know they have to beat us to win this World Cup."

Rovman Powell's side equalled the record for the West Indies' most wins in a single calendar year (W9 in 2021) in T20Is, and face South Africa in Antigua next Monday. 

The triumph continued their impressive T20 record at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, and they have now won five of their previous seven T20Is at the venue. 

The last and only previous time they won more consecutive games in Barbados was a four-game streak from May 2010 to March 2014, which has got the West Indies believing they can claim a third title. 

"It's very special," captain Powell said. "Kensington brings special memories for us. We had no better opportunity to come out and play some good cricket."

The USA still holds on to the hopes of qualifying for the competition's semi-finals but knows their hopes of progression lie elsewhere. 

Having lost their opening Super 8 fixture to South Africa, they will be hoping the Proteas can do them a favour in defeating the West Indies but would need a comprehensive victory of their own against current champions England. 

"We lost wickets in clusters," captain Aaron Jones said. "I don't think we ever truly recovered from that. It was bad in the middle.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and come back hard against England on Sunday."

Barbadian Kyle Mayers has been added to the West Indies squad as replacement for Brandon King ahead of their crucial ICC Men's T20 World Cup Super Eight clash against United States.

The left-hander's approval was confirmed by the tournament's Event Technical Committee on Friday.

Mayers, who has played 37 T20Is, was named as a replacement after King was ruled out due to a side strain which forced him to retire hurt in the Caribbean side's loss to England in St Lucia.

However, Mayers will not be involved in the clash of the co-hosts, as he is expected to join the squad on Saturday, and could possibly feature in their final Group 2 Super Eight contest against South Africa.

The replacement of a player requires the approval of the Event Technical Committee before the player can be officially added to the squad.

The Event Technical Committee of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 consists of Wasim Khan (ICC General Manager – Cricket), Chris Tetley (ICC Head of Events), Johnny Grave (CEO, Cricket West Indies) and Kass Naidoo (Independent Representative).

For Demarai Gray, the journey to recover from a broken collarbone in time for the Copa America has been a testament of resilience, passion, and an unwavering commitment to representing Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz.

The England-born winger, who suffered the injury earlier this year, while representing Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq, recently returned to fitness, and his joy and excitement about being back in Jamaica’s setup are palpable, as he prepares to parade his skills in one of the most prestigious tournaments in international football.

“It's good to be back; I was disappointed that I missed the World Cup qualifiers, but I'm happy the boys got the six points. I am glad to be back with the boys and excited for this tournament,” Gray said in an interview with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) media.

“It was a difficult end (to the season) with the injury, I had about six weeks out, but over the last few weeks, I've been working and trying to get as fit as possible for the Copa. So, we've got a few more days for me to build, and hopefully I can get off to a good start against Mexico,” he added.

Gray going through his paces in training.

Gray's injury initially cast doubt on his availability for the Copa America, but the 27-year-old's return to a clean bill of health represents a significant boost for the Reggae Boyz, who view him as a crucial component of their attacking force.

Since he made the switch to represent Jamaica in 2023, Gray has quickly become a fan favorite, celebrated for his electrifying speed, deft dribbling, and ability to change the course of a game. His contributions have been instrumental in the Reggae Boyz's recent successes, including crucial goals and assists that have propelled the team forward in international competitions.

Reflecting on his journey with the Jamaican national team, Gray expressed deep pride and a sense of belonging that transcends his England roots.

“Yeah, it's been good. I've seen a lot since playing for Jamaica, playing back in Jamaica and being at the Gold Cup, and now being at this (Copa America) competition. So it's been good. It's been exciting, and fans have shown me a lot of love and respect, and the boys have been good,” Gray shared.

“So, yeah, it's been a good experience and, you know, with these tournaments and the World Cup qualifiers that we've got ahead, there's a lot of exciting things to look forward to, and I'm just taking it each game at a time, trying to achieve and contribute as much as I can for the country,” the soft-spoken player declared.

In 11 appearances so far, Gray has scored five goals, and he was instrumental in Jamaica’s historic third-place finish in the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League campaign. That is an accomplishment that the nippy player prides himself on, and one he hopes is the first of many to come on the international stage.

“Throughout my career, I want to get as many medals as I can, and win as many things as I can. I think we're a nation that's slowly building, I think you can see the talent and the potential that we've got, but things don't happen overnight, so we have to be a bit patient, but there's a lot to look forward to.

“Just qualifying and making different competitions is good for us as players, the young players coming through and the fans, it's just good for the whole nation. So I think that would be the main objective, just trying to be as successful as we can in competitions and just keep building,” Gray noted.

As the Reggae Boyz gear up for the Copa America, Gray's presence adds a layer of optimism and confidence to Heimir Hallgrimsson’s squad. He is focused on making a significant impact and is determined to help Jamaica achieve new heights on the international stage.

The Boyz will kick start their Group B campaign against perennial rivals Mexico, before rubbing shoulders with Venezuela and Ecuador later in the tournament.

“I am very excited. It's one I've been looking forward to. Obviously, if you look at the history of this tournament, see how many good players have played in it, and it's a very competitive tournament and testing tournament and I want to be tested at the highest levels in the best competitions,” he said.

“I'm happy that we're in this and got an opportunity to showcase what we're about. It's going to be a tough tournament because it's very high quality, but without these tests, we're not going to push ourselves. I'm very excited. I can't wait for the first game,” Gray ended.

Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada impressed as South Africa held on to defeat the United States by 18 runs in an entertaining encounter as the Super 8s began at the T20 World Cup on Wednesday.

Opener De Kock smashed 74 runs from just 40 balls and captain Aiden Markram added 46 for the Proteas as their top order finally fired after enduring a difficult start to the tournament.

Even though Harmeet Singh (2-24) removed De Kock and David Miller (0) in consecutive balls in the 13th over, Heinrich Klaasen (36 not out) and Tristan Stubbs (20no) helped South Africa to a healthy 194-4 in Antigua.

USA fell to 76-5 just after the midway point of their innings as it looked like a chase of 195 would fall flat, but a magnificent partnership of 91 from 43 balls between Andries Gous and Harmeet took USA to within 28 of their target with two overs to spare.

However, Rabada took the crucial wicket of Harmeet for 38 and killed the contest as his 19th over went for that wicket and just two runs, capping a fine bowling display that saw him finish with figures of 3-18 from four overs.

Gous batted on and finished with an impressive unbeaten 80 off 47 balls, but USA fell short as South Africa maintained their 100 per cent record in the competition so far.

Data Debrief: De Kock and Gous impress

After USA won the toss and elected to field before removing Reeza Hendricks (11) in the third over, they sensed an opportunity to seize control.

But De Kock had other ideas, smashing three successive sixes as South Africa scored a huge 28 off the fourth over to seize momentum they did not relinquish from there.

De Kock’s superb innings included five maximums and seven fours until he was finally removed by Harmeet in the 13th over.

As the South Africa star left the field, only three players had recorded a better innings than him in this year's tournament – West Indies' Nicholas Pooran (98), USA's Aaron Jones (94 not out) and Afghanistan batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz (who has had scores of 80 and 76).

But Gous then immediately topped him with an excellent knock of his own, and the American now has the most runs in the tournament with 182, putting him 15 ahead Gurbaz, who is back in action against India on Thursday.

It took 28 years, but Argentina finally ended a long wait for a major international trophy when they triumphed at the 2021 Copa America.

Lionel Messi starred throughout that tournament in Brazil, which was played partly behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scoring four goals and laying on five more, though it was Angel Di Maria who proved Argentina's hero in the final, scoring the winner against the Selecao.

That triumph marked Messi's first piece of silverware on the international stage, while Argentina won a trophy for the first time since 1993.

It paved the way for Argentina to go from continental champions to world champions less than 18 months later, as Messi inspired them to glory in Qatar.

And now the world champions will look to cement this era of dominance by retaining the Copa America crown.

With the help of Opta data, we preview the key storylines ahead of the Copa America.

THE HOSTS

USA

This year's Copa will be held in the United States, which was also the host nation for the 2016 edition, which was won by Chile.

Like in 2016, 16 teams will feature at the tournament this year, with the USA one of six CONCACAF nations involved.

Gregg Berhalter left his role after the 2022 World Cup, but was then reappointed. While he has a talented group at his disposal, it does feel as though he cannot quite get the required level of consistency out of them.

The two sides of the USA were on show in their warm-up matches: A 5-1 hammering at the hands of Colombia was followed by a 1-1 draw with heavyweights Brazil.

In Christian Pulisic, the USA have an influential playmaker who comes into the tournament on the back of his best goalscoring season, having netted 15 times in all competitions for Milan.

Folarin Balogun has netted three times for the Stars and Stripes since switching allegiance from England, while Antonee Robinson, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah have plenty of top-level experience. But Berhalter has to find a way to put it all together.

THE FAVOURITES

Argentina

It is easy to see why La Albiceleste are the big favourites. They are the best team in the world, according to the FIFA rankings, and in Messi, they still have a player who is arguably the best in the world, even heading into his late thirties.

Messi has already been involved in 21 MLS goals for Inter Miami this season, and everything is set to revolve around him once again for Argentina.

 

As soon as he features for Argentina at this tournament, Messi will become the Copa America’s all-time record holder for appearances – he is tied with Chile great Sergio Livingstone on 34, as it stands.

Messi has scored 13 Copa America goals, which puts him joint-seventh on the all-time list, alongside fellow Argentina great Gabriel Batistuta. If he is able to replicate his four goals from the 2021 edition, then Messi could join Norberto Mendez and Zizinho at the top of the all-time charts – that is unless Peru's Paolo Guerrero and/or Chile's Eduardo Vargas were to net at least four times each to set a new record.

Since the start of the 2011 Copa, Messi has had 102 shots – more than any other player. Surprisingly, his conversion rate stands at just 10.78 per cent, which is the second-lowest out of any player to have netted at least five goals in the competition in that time.

With 15 titles to their name, Argentina are the joint-record winners of the Copa America, alongside Uruguay. They have played more Copa matches (201) and scored more goals in the tournament (474) than any other team, too.

They are clearly the team to beat.

Brazil

This Brazil is not exactly the vintage of the 1990s or 2000s. With no Neymar, there's less flair, and more streetfighter grit, in Dorival Junior's squad.

Vinicius Junior does provide a flavour of the archetypal Brazilian international, though, and he is set to be the Selecao's talisman at this Copa.

He comes into the tournament on the back of an exceptional season with Real Madrid, having scored 24 goals across all competitions.

Vinicius outperformed his 20.96 xG, while also providing nine assists and creating 56 chances for his team-mates.

The forward spent much of the domestic campaign playing down the middle for Carlo Ancelotti's team, whereas for his country, he is likely to play wide left.

Who occupies that centre-forward spot is perhaps up for debate. Endrick is a superstar in the making, though will Brazil's coach trust the youngster to lead the line from the off?

Gabriel Martinelli is better on the flanks, though could do a job if required. However, with no Richarlison or Gabriel Jesus, that striker position does seem a possible weakness.

There's no Casemiro, following his poor performances for Manchester United, but Douglas Luiz, Bruno Guimaraes and Lucas Paqueta form a steely midfield trio with genuine quality.

With Ederson injured, Alisson is the clear number one, with Eder Militao and Marquinhos seemingly set to pair up at the back, with Gabriel Magalhaes and Bremer quality options in reserve, too.

They face Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica in their group, and despite their struggles in World Cup qualifying, they are still the favourites to top that pool.

Uruguay

Now under the guidance of the enigmatic Marcelo Bielsa, Uruguay are being tipped by many to emerge as serious challengers in the United States. 

A hat-trick from Liverpool's Darwin Nunez helped them thrash Mexico 4-0 in a pre-tournament friendly last week, while they also sit second in the CONMEBOL 2026 World Cup qualification standings, having beaten Brazil and Argentina last year.

That latter victory makes them the only team to defeat La Albiceleste since they won the World Cup in Qatar. Messi and company have won the other 13 of their 14 matches as world champions.

Nunez, who ranked joint-fifth in the Premier League for total shots (108) and eighth for xG (16.39) in 2023-24, is an ideal fit for the all-action attacking approach favoured by Bielsa, while tireless midfielder Federico Valverde brings balance alongside enforcer Manuel Ugarte and the cultured Rodrigo Bentancur.

Luis Suarez, meanwhile, has received a surprise call-up despite not featuring in Uruguay's pre-tournament friendlies, having scored 12 goals and assisted five in 16 MLS appearances for Inter Miami this term.

Neutrals should expect entertainment from a side that leads all teams in South American World Cup qualifying for xG (9.05), but as is so often the case with Bielsa's teams, there are questions at the other end. 

Ecuador (4.52) and Venezuela (4.78) are among those to have allowed opponents a lower xG total in the CONMEBOL qualifiers than Uruguay (4.97 xGA), and goalkeeper Sergio Rochet can expect to be worked after usurping Fernando Muslera, who helped La Celeste finish fourth at the 2010 World Cup and win the Copa America one year later.

Panama and Bolivia look unlikely to offer much of a challenge in Group C, making Uruguay's final match against the United States vital. Should they top their pool, they will land on the opposite side of the bracket to the Group A victors, widely expected to be Argentina. 

Uruguay held the record for most Copa America victories outright between 2011 (their 15th title) and 2021 (Argentina's 15th). If we see Bielsa-ball in full flow, they could be contenders to reclaim their status as South America's top dogs.

Colombia

Colombia are the form team heading into the Copa America.

They are unbeaten in 23 games, winning the last eight of those, including hammerings of the USA and Bolivia in pre-tournament friendlies.

Luis Diaz scored one and set up another in that latter match - a 3-0 win - and he was the breakout star of the 2021 Copa America, scoring four goals to finish level with Messi at the top of the charts.

Those four goals came from a combined xG of just 1.0, with Diaz netting an overhead kick against Brazil in the group stage, and lashing in a supreme strike from outside the area as Colombia beat Peru in the third-placed play-off.

Diaz is Colombia's most potent goalscoring threat, but they also have James Rodriguez to rely on further back.

James' club career has become a nomadic one, but for his country, the former Madrid playmaker is a superstar once again under coach Nestor Lorenzo, who has made the 32-year-old the main man.

Having been left out of Colombia's squad for the 2021 edition, James will be eager to make up for lost time.

Colombia are more than just dark horses. They should be considered among the very best teams at this tournament.

THE BREAKOUT STARS

Endrick is the obvious pick here. The teenager looks set for stardom, and he'll be linking up with Vinicius, Jude Bellingham and Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid next season. He has scored three goals in his last four outings for Brazil, including a late winner against Mexico earlier in June.

Alejandro Garnacho is now an established Premier League player, but he is only just finding his way for Argentina. He is yet to score for his country, but has stepped up in big moments for Manchester United this season, none more so than in the FA Cup final, in which he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Manchester City.

Colombia forward Jhon Duran  is reportedly of interest to Chelsea, and the Aston Villa attacker could be something of a wildcard for Lorenzo off the bench. His five Premier League goals in 2023-24 came from just 2.0 xG.

THE OPTA SUPERCOMPUTER SAYS...

As mentioned, Argentina are the clear favourites, with Opta's model handing them a 31 per cent chance of winning their 16th Copa crown.

Brazil, as would be expected, rank second - their win likelihood is 23 per cent .

Uruguay come in with a 13 per cent chance, ahead of the USA ( seven per cent ), Colombia ( six per cent ) and Mexico ( six per cent ).

Two teams - Jamaica and Bolivia, who are the worst-ranked side in this year's edition of the tournament - are given a zero per cent chance of winning the trophy.

Panama, who reached the CONCACAF Gold Cup final last year, can perhaps consider themselves hard done by to be given just a one per cent chance, however.

As Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz gear up for their highly anticipated Copa America campaign, two players, Michael Hector and Wes Harding, find themselves at different junctures of their international careers. Despite their varied experiences and career timelines, both England-born defenders are eager to leave a significant mark on Jamaica's journey in the tournament.

Hector has been a stalwart in the Reggae Boyz setup for over a decade in which he paraded his skills at three Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments –2015, 2019, 2021 –and he is now on the cusp of making his third Copa America outing.

In fact, Hector, known for his versatility and composure, is the only player in Heimir Hallgrimsson’s current squad, who has the privilege of being a part of three Copa America squads over the years.

“Obviously my first Copa America appearance was my debut and I’ll never forget that. Obviously, massive games, great atmosphere and I don’t get to appreciate it much, but when you’re in a tournament, you obviously know how big it is with the countries that are playing in it, so it is a special tournament to be a part of,” Hector said in an interview with Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) media, on Monday.

As he reflected on the journey, which has been marked by consistent performances and a deep-rooted commitment to the country, Hector also shared his excitement about their prospects on this occasion.

The 31-year-old’s leadership and defensive prowess will be crucial for Jamaica, as they rub shoulders with some of the most formidable teams in South America, as well their usual foes from Concacaf. His ability to read the game, coupled with his calm presence on the field, provides the Reggae Boyz with a solid defensive foundation.

“For me, every cap I got, every time I can have a chance to represent this country, it's an honour and I always try do my best. The journey has been special, but it has not ended. Hopefully, there's a lot more special moments to come, special nights, and special days, but, it's been a fantastic journey, one that I always treasure and want to be a part of for longer,” Hector noted.

Michael Hector challenges Lionel Messi during the 2015 Copa America.

Though only two caps into his international career, Harding, like Hector, is determined to play a key role in Jamaica's campaign, aiming to do his teammates and family proud on his long-awaited return.

“It's amazing to be back. It's been a while, over two years now, so, I’m over the moon. It's been a long, gruelling time waiting, watching from the distance, so, when he [Hallgrimsson] called me, I was really excited," said Harding, who made his debut against Serbia in 2021.

At 27, Harding, known for his speed and aerial ability, is also rated as a strong, aggressive, and tenacious player, who can contribute to Hallgrimsson’s team in the right back or centre back positions.

With Copa America representing a unique opportunity for Harding to again showcase his talent on an international stage against some of the world's best teams, he is ready to navigate the challenges to come.