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Messi And Argentina Are Worthy Copa America Favorites

The special edition of the Copa America coming to the United States next month has the potential to be one of the most exciting tournaments the continent has seen in a long time. 

The title is up for grabs with eight national teams having real chances of taking the home the cup (or keeping it home if you’re Jurgen Klinsmann and team USA). 

And yet, none of the seven other national teams has a stronger drive to pursue this title than the favorites, Argentina. 

Gerardo Martino and his team don’t want a title. They need one. But why? Argentina has some of the best players in the world, and they sure have won a few titles recently, haven’t they?

Well, time for a little revelation. The last time La Albiceleste won a major title, Lionel Messi was a six-year-old boy. 

Almost 23 years ago, Gabriel Batistuta scored twice in the 1993 Copa America final and the Argentines (Atletico Madrid’s manager Diego Simeone was on that squad) frustrated Hugo Sanchez’s Mexico to win the title. That was the last time an Argentina senior team lifted a major trophy. 

Today they have the odds, they have the players, and they have a die-hard following to push them. But will that be enough? 

Players to watch:

Lionel Messi


Photo: @SuperSportTV | Twitter

The reigning best player in the world has just capped off another stellar season with La Liga’s and Copa del Rey’s titles. Now he’s on the hunt for one of the only two titles that evaded him in his entire career. 

Including club and national team appearances, Messi has tallied 46 goals and 26 assists in 59 matches played this season. 

Another interesting Messi fact is his amount of shots taken. The trigger happy Balon d’Or winner fired on opposing goals 293 times in those 59 games. 

Sergio Aguero

Strength and speed are the two traits that best describe one of the most feared strikers in the world. Kun Aguero, efficient as ever, quietly managed to tie Jamie Vardy for the second spot in the Premier League’s top scorers list with 24 goals. One goal shy of Harry Kane, who took the title with 25. 

Aguero scored three goals in last year’s Copa America and will be hungry for the scoring title in the US next month. Always reliable in front of the goal, opposing defenses should be as careful with him as they are with Messi or Aguero will make them pay. 

Angel Di Maria

After a rocky season with Manchester United, a change of airs proved to be all Di Maria needed to rediscover his football. With Paris Saint-Germain, he turned a great team into arguably the greatest team that ever played France’s Ligue 1. He took the title of league’s best passer with an ease to be admired. Di Maria finished the season with 18 assists, five more than second-place Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil was the only player in Europe’s five major leagues to top Di Maria. Ozil finished his season in the EPL with 19 assists. 

Should Di Maria keep this pace, Messi and Aguero should get all the chances they need in front of goal to bring the title back to Buenos Aires.

Who can surprise:  

Matias Kranevitter  

The young Atletico Madrid midfielder struggled to find his way into Simeone’s squad after arriving in January, but slowly seemed to be getting acquainted with the brand of soccer played in Spain. 

For Martino, on the other hand, Kranevitter’s experience in playing and winning the Copa Libertadores with River is what could prove most valuable in a hard-fought and physical competition as the Copa America tends to be. 

Notable absences: Paulo Dybala, Carlos Tevez

Complete 23-Man Argentina Roster:

Goalkeepers: Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes), Nahuel Guzman (UANL), Sergio Romero (Manchester United).

Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Fiorentina), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Ramiro Funes Mori (Argentina), Gabriel Mercado (River Plate), Jonathan Maidana (River Plate), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Victor Cuesta (Independiente)

Midfielders: Matias Kranevitter (Atletico Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain), Augusto Fernandez (Atletico Madrid), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur).

Forwards: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China Fortune), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica).

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