Copa America 2024 augurs in a new reality

Brazil's absent Neymar
Brazil's absent Neymar

The South American continent has historically maintained a three-tiered system among their footballing nations: Brazil and Argentina in tier one, Uruguay and the newest country with a good generation of players in tier two, and everyone else in tier three. For many years it was Colombia and Peru who joined Uruguay, in others the Charruas were complemented by Chile (winners of the last two fairly contested Copa Americas). Occasionally, Ecuador or Paraguay would take a turn and rise, yet Bolivia and Venezuela rarely ever rose. But things are changing.

With the results of the recently completed Copa America 2024 matches—Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia winning with some comfort, Peru, Chile, and Brazil drawing with major discomfort, Venezuela, Paraguay, and Bolivia losing deservedly—we are seeing a changing of the South American guard at the top.  

Brazil, without Neymar, (but also without Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, and Antony, to mention some of the obvious players still active but not chosen for a variety of reasons) is no longer a global or even regional powerhouse. On the other hand, Uruguay’s wonderful generation is on the upswing and will make waves now and in their return in 2026. Colombia has found a happy blend of senior and newer talent with quite some chemistry. They too are ready to rock the regional and global boats. While Argentina is cognizant of living on borrowed Messi time and trying to make the best of it before they too drop a rung.

The biggest story, at the regional and global levels, is Brazil. The only way that story modifies is if their missing players return to the fold and a coach who can be taught or already understands the resources he has at his disposal helms the team.

The distance in quality, character, and leadership, from Casemiro to Lucas Paqueta, from Gabriel Jesus to Rodrygo, or from Neymar to Vinicius Jr., is just too big a chasm to bridge. If you compound that by saying that team coach, Dorival Junior, is no Carlos Alberto Parreira, Luiz Felipe Scolari, or Tite, you almost have to agree with Ronaldinho’s recent assessment of the Selecao.

Which brings us back to handicapping the 2024 Copa America. To begin with, Uruguay and Colombia are the two teams in the best form, followed by Argentina (still Messi dependent but at least confident in their potential given their full squad’s return from previous international duties), and then we get the big drop off to the remainder of the wannabes.

The way the tournament is set up, Argentina will only have to play one tough game well to claim back-to-back trophies, while the two remaining contenders will have to vie for the remaining slot by eliminating the other. If the team that survives that clash has not been diminished the winner will win the Copa. If that team does receive a meaningful nick, the Argentines will win again.

Shutterstock photo ID—1282004545, by Alizada Studios.

TAGS—Neymar, Casemiro, Ronaldinho, Gabriel Jesus, Tite, Copa America 2024.

Keywords: Neymar, Brazil, Copa America 2024

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