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'Don't need to commit to 2026 World Cup': Lionel Messi drops bombshell ahead of Copa America 2024

As Argentina prepares for the 2024 Copa America, Lionel Messi addresses his future with the national team, stating he doesn't need to commit to the 2026 FIFA World Cup. With Argentina currently holding both the FIFA World Cup and Copa America titles, Messi's focus remains on the upcoming tournament in the USA.

Football 'Don't need to commit to 2026 World Cup': Lionel Messi drops bombshell ahead of Copa America 2024 osf
First Published Jun 19, 2024, 2:21 PM IST

World champions Argentina kick off an expanded Copa America on Thursday, with Lionel Messi aiming to secure a second continental title in what is likely his final appearance in the tournament. The historic 108-year-old competition is being held in the United States, featuring six CONCACAF teams joining the ten South American nations vying for a spot in the July 14 final in Miami. While FIFA will closely observe the event's organization ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada, and Mexico, the Copa America's rich history and prestige make it far more than just a 'trial event'.

Argentina has claimed the Copa America 15 times, but only once during Messi's era, in 2021. Coach Lionel Scaloni has largely retained the World Cup-winning squad, with veterans Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi likely participating in their final major tournament.

Whether this will be Messi's farewell to elite international football remains uncertain. The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner, now playing in Major League Soccer with Inter Miami, will turn 37 four days after Thursday's opener in Atlanta against Canada and has yet to decide if he will pursue a record sixth World Cup appearance.

"It's great to have records and continue to achieve things, but I won't take part in a World Cup just to say I've done six," Messi told ESPN last week. "If I feel good and everything is in place for me to be there, fine, but I won't go just to go. It's very difficult to imagine what can happen because it's still two years away. I don't need to commit right now to whether or not I'll be there," he added.

One thing is certain: Messi, who has managed his workload to be in peak condition for the tournament, would cherish the chance to win a third consecutive major title with his country after years of frustration with the national team.

Tough Opposition

After facing Canada, Argentina will play against Chile in New Jersey and then finish their group stage matches against Peru in Miami. They are aware that tough opposition awaits in the knockout stage, with Brazil and Uruguay expected to be the main challengers for the title.

Brazil has struggled in CONMEBOL qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, winning only two of their first six games and currently sitting in sixth place after losses to Uruguay, Colombia, and Argentina.

Several familiar names are absent from Dorival Junior's Brazil squad, including Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus, and Thiago Silva, while Richarlison and Neymar are out due to injuries. The pressure will be on Real Madrid's attacking duo, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, to replicate their club success for the national team. There is also much excitement around 17-year-old talent Endrick, set to join Real Madrid next month from Palmeiras, making his senior tournament debut.

Uruguay, also 15-time winners, has impressed under their 68-year-old Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, who has instilled his high-energy style into the team, raising expectations with recent wins over Argentina and Brazil. Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez will lead the line, although Bielsa can call on veteran Luis Suarez from the bench.

Colombia enters the tournament unbeaten in over two years, with Liverpool's dynamic winger Luis Diaz and James Rodriguez, who is experiencing a late-career revival, making Nestor Lorenzo's team a formidable opponent.

The USA hopes to generate excitement after losing momentum since their last-16 finish at the World Cup. Coach Gregg Berhalter is under pressure to prove that his team, relying on the smart wing play of Christian Pulisic, can compete with teams outside of CONCACAF.

Mexico, frequent guests at the Copa America, reached the final in 1993 and 2001, but currently look below their usual level. However, they can always count on massive support in the USA.

This is the second time the Copa America is being held in the USA, following the Centenary tournament in 2016. Despite breaking tradition, the presence of significant immigrant communities from all competing nations should ensure large crowds at the NFL stadiums being used.

Also Read: Euro 2024: Cristiano Ronaldo sends uplifting message after Portugal's late win over Czechia; read post

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