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Copa America

10 things you might not know about Copa America 2024: Preachers, Trump and Messi’s birthday party

The Copa América 2024 started with one big surprise: Costa Rica held Brazil to a historic 0-0.

While Neymar regretted every squandered chance from the stands, the Ticos enjoyed a lucky performance: only two touches in the opposition’s box and no shots on target, as opposed to Brazil’s 19 shots, including a post, all kind of saves and a controversial, millimetric VAR decision that ruled out Marquinhos goal in the first half.

It was, at last, some interesting outcome, after a predictable and lacklustre Round 1. With the tournament just starting, here are ten things that you might not know about Copa America 2024.

1) Oldest in the world

The first Copa América took place in Argentina in 1916. It is the oldest continental competition in the world. Uruguay and Argentina are the two nations with most trophies: 15 each. It is a CONMEBOL competition, therefore reserved to South American nations.

However, since the 1990s there’s been joint editions featuring CONCACAF teams as guests. And even Japan (twice) and Qatar were invited.

Argentina are the reigning champions, following their victory in the 2021 edition played in Brazil, their first official title since 1993.


This 48th edition is the second time that the Copa América is played outside South America. The first one was the Copa América Centenary, in 2016, also with the United States as hosts.

In theory, the rotation system entitled Ecuador to organise the 2024 edition, but they declined in November 2022. The quick agreement between the two confederations granted the US this tournament ahead of the World Cup 2026, with 16 teams (10 from South America and 6 from Central and North America) and 14 venues across the East and West Coasts.

3) Familiar names

Eight of the stadiums of this Copa América will be also used in the next World Cup: AT&T in Arlington; Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta; Hard Rock in Miami Gardens; NRG in Houston; SoFi in Inglewood, California; Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara; and Arrowhead in Kansas City; and MetLife in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the World Cup final will be held.

4) Religion-free?

In what undoubtedly was one of the most bizarre opening ceremonies ever, two Christian preachers blessed the Copa America reading out a prayer while holding the Bible at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The blessing took place in front of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF authorities and immediately sparked strong reaction.

One of the pastors, Christian Evangelical, was the ultraconservative Paraguayan Emilio Agüero Esgaib, who in the past made controversial remarks about transgender people, abortion, homosexuals and “the sexual promiscuity of the society, mainly in Europe”.

CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez, also from Paraguay, might be the explanation of why he was on the pitch and speaking to the 72,000 fans.

“What really struck me was the ‘Amen’ that was yelled inside the stadium, in a ceremony broadcast in 190 countries. A message of peace. But I understand that many didn’t like it,” said Agüero Esgaib.

“I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. It’s the power of God for salvation,” he posted on X after the opening.

But wasn’t this a breach in FIFA’s religion-free, discrimination-free that is written in its statutes? Clearly not a mere anecdote, despite no authorities willing to perform the needed follow-up on the matter.

5) Messi, older and wiser

On June 24, Lionel Messi became 37 years-old. Since the U20 World Cup Netherlands 2005, between Copas América and World Cups, Messi spent more birthdays with his Argentina team-mates than with his family.

But it was the first time in which he managed to celebrate also with the fans that were outside Argentina’s hotel. He greeted them from the balcony, as they sang the Happy Birthday.

Messi shares his birthday with another Argentinian ace, Juan Roman Riquelme. Some other illustrious Argentinians were born that day: F-1 five-champion Juan Manuel Fangio, and writer Ernesto Sabato. The greatest tango singer, Carlos Gardel, also died on that date.

In Argentina, June 24 was known as Singer’s Day, and Pilot’s Day. Now, there’s pressure to name it as Football’s Day.

6) Farewell for Di Maria

This tournament will be Angel Di Maria’s last dance with Argentina. Even if he had announced that he was going to quit after winning the World Cup, his team-mates convinced him to wait and have a proper retirement tour.

Unlike Di Maria, Messi has not yet confirmed his future and hopes are high to have him as Argentina’s No 10 in the 2026 World Cup.

“We will wait for him until the last day. And if he wants to be part of it, his jersey will be waiting,” announced Scaloni.

7) Rock-bottom Bolivia

Bolivia has the third worst streak in the history of the tournament: 13 consecutive defeats, starting in 2015. The worst is Ecuador’s, with 17 straight losses between 1939 and 1945.

“We only have five players abroad, compared to most of the other nations. A country with good players can’t be 10 years without winning a single game. But that’s what it is,” said Bolivia manager Carlos Antonio Zago.

8) Trump and chaos

Teams (and fans) will have to get used to some troubling journeys, as it was the case of Chile, ahead of their second game.

The team managed by Ricardo Gareca trained in the morning in Forth Worth, then travelled to Dallas airport and saw how a supposed 3 hour 30 minute flight resulted in a 12-hour adventure, following an initial delay over a storm in New York; an extra hour in the sky waiting to land; and, after landing at Newark, finding that they couldn’t disembark for security reasons – former president Donald Trump was arriving.

It wasn’t the only problem Chile faced. They could only find a decent training ground 80 kilometres away from the hotel in New Jersey, but they didn’t count with the unroofed 10-minute walk from the dressing room to the pitch, that players did under a heavy rain.

Chile FA sent a letter of protest to CONMEBOL for all these problems, including the treatment received by their player Erick Pulgar, held at the US border for 40 minutes without explanation.

9) Complaints

Lionel Scaloni wasn’t happy with the state of the pitch at the ultramodern Mercedes-Benz stadium in Argentina’s debut against Canada.

“They’ve known for seven months that this game was being played, and yet they chose to change the turf two days before. The result was a disastrous turf in a very beautiful stadium,” the Argentina coach said.

“Luckily we’ve won the game, otherwise it would have looked as an excuse, but this is difficult to accept for these kind of tournaments and these kind of players. We had to beat both the opposition and the pitch”.

But his counterpart Jesse Marsch was not happy with Scaloni.

“Argentina deliberately came on five minutes later (after halftime). They were in the tunnel watching videos of how to play against us. They should be fined! If we had come five minutes, imagine…”.

10) Apology

Marcelo Bielsa is well-known for surprising fans and journalists with some unexpected answers.

The gaffer found an Uruguayan fan that had travelled to the training session, only to find out that it wasn’t open to the public.

“Please write your number on a piece of paper,” Bielsa asked him.

A few days later, Federico Vera received a phonecall from an unknown number. It was Bielsa.

“He wanted to offer his apologies because the training sessions are not open to the fans. Imagine how surprised I was. To have the national team manager calling you and saying he was sorry, that shows the kind of person he is,” he said.


Argentina, Peru, Chile, Canada.
RESULTS: Argentina 2-0 Canada; Peru 0-0 Chile

Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Jamaica
RESULTS: Venezuela 2-1 Ecuador; Mexico 1-0 Jamaica

Uruguay, United States, Panama, Bolivia

RESULTS: USA 2-0 Bolivia; Uruguay 3-1 Panama

Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Paraguay
RESULTS: Colombia 2-1 Paraguay; Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica

*Two teams per group qualify to the Quarterfinals

*Final: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, on July 14

Credit: AIPS Media

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