Argentina Copa America squad review: Messi to lead title defence

The Argentina Copa America squad is targeting a third major title in the space of just three years, after following their 2021 triumph in this competition up in perfect style, by lifting the 2022 World Cup.

Argentina's triumph in Brazil three years ago ended a 28-year wait for success in this competition. And since winning the World Cup, Argentina have cemented their status as the world’s top ranked nation with 12 wins from 13 matches since seeing off France on penalties in Qatar.

Simply put, they are the ones to beat.

argentina copa america squad preview
Argentina won Copa America 2021 on enemy territory in Brazil – Photo by Icon Sport

Argentina – Key facts

Year founded: 1902

Nickname: La Albiceleste

Current FIFA ranking: 1st

Highest FIFA ranking: 1st

This is Argentina's fifth stint as the top ranked team according to FIFA and it’s already their longest period in the number one spot.

Year of Copa America debut: 1916

Argentina hosted the first edition of what was then the South American Championship, but in a premonition of the inaugural WC that would follow 14 years later, they finished as runners up to neighbours Uruguay – albeit after a goalless draw, rather than a 4-2 thriller.

Best Copa America performance: Winners (15 times)

Argentina have claimed 15 Copa America crowns. The first came in 1921 and the most recent was exactly a century later in 2021 when they edged out hosts Brazil 1-0 in the Final at the Maracana, thanks to a goal from Angel Di Maria.

Player to watch: Lionel Messi

Even at 36, Lionel Messi remains the main man for Argentina. Assuming he can translate his impressive MLS form onto the international stage, Argentina are well worthy of their status as favourites to win this competition.

Dibu Martinez
Emiliano Martinez in World Cup qualifying action against Brazil – Photo by Icon Sport

Full Argentina Copa America squad

Argentina are the 7/4 favourites to defend their Copa America crown, and that’s no surprise given this squad is very similar to the one that won the World Cup. The most noteworthy absentee is Paulo Dybala, who has been hampered by injuries so far in 2024.

Goalkeeper

  • Emiliano Martinez
  • Franco Armani
  • Geronimo Rulli

Defence

  • Lucas Martinez Quarta
  • Nicolas Tagliafico
  • Gonzalo Montiel
  • German Pezzella
  • Marcos Acuña
  • Cristian Romero
  • Nicolas Otamendi
  • Lisandro Martinez
  • Nahuel Molina

Midfield

  • Leandro Paredes
  • Rodrigo De Paul
  • Exequiel Palacios
  • Giovani Lo Celso
  • Guido Rodriguez
  • Alexis Mac Allister
  • Enzo Fernandez
  • Valentin Carboni

Attack

  • Julian Alvarez
  • Lionel Messi
  • Angel Di Maria
  • Nicolas Gonzalez
  • Alejandro Garnacho
  • Lautaro Martinez

Surprise inclusions in Argentina Copa America squad

Giovani Lo Celso

It’s a slight surprise to see Giovani Lo Celso make the final cut given the disappointing season he has just had. He made just four starts in the Premier League for Spurs, appearing off the bench on 18 occasions. He scored in back-to-back games against Aston Villa and Manchester City in the autumn but has struggled to find any rhythm since then.

Valentin Carboni

Scaloni has looked more to the future with the selection of Monza midfielder Valentin Carboni. The 19-year-old has shown promise, but hasn’t set the world on fire in Serie A, with only 10 of his 31 appearances during 2023/24 being starts. His form has tailed off a bit too, with only one goal contribution since he scored and assisted in the same game against Frosinone in early January.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi will skipper Argentina again this summer – Photo by Icon Sport

In-form players for Argentina

Lionel Messi

Messi takes great form into this tournament with 12 goals and nine assists in 12 MLS appearances following his successful reunion with Luis Suarez in Miami. Five of those assists came in the same game against the New York Red Bulls last month. The only doubt is whether he can quickly adapt to the higher level and greater intensity of a major international tournament.

Nicolas Gonzalez

A big part of Argentina’s 2021 Copa America winning team, Nicolas Gonzalez missed out on the 2022 World Cup due to injury. He’s hoping to make up for lost time in the US this summer, and takes good form into the tournament, having scored six in his last 10 appearances for club Fiorentina.

Argentina predicted Copa America XI

Argentina vs Canada

(4-3-3) Martinez, Tagliafico, Romero, Martinez, Molina, De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Di Maria, Alvarez & Messi

With few notable injuries and strong form since Qatar, Lionel Scaloni’s initial side should be very reminiscent of the one that won the World Cup. He could potentially name 10 of the 11 that started the Final against France in the opening game, although Lisandro Martinez is likely to be preferred to Nicolas Otamendi in central defence.

argentina copa america squad
Julian Alvarez is likely to be preferred to Lautaro Martinez up front again – Photo by Icon Sport

Argentina vs Chile

(4-3-3) Martinez, Acuña, Romero, Martinez, Molina, De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Di Maria, Alvarez & Messi

Unlike the Euros, there are no third placed teams who will progress to the knockout stage, so Argentina will need to take at least their first two group games very seriously. A similar XI is expected against Chile, although strong competition between Nicolas Tagliafico and Marcos Acuña means a change at left back is possible.

Argentina vs Peru

(4-3-3) Martinez, Tagliafico, Romero, Martinez, Montiel, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Lo Celso, Garnacho, Martinez & Messi

Much will depend on whether Argentina are already through, in which case they may look to rest Messi in the final game against Peru. If they need a result, we could still see some fresh legs with Alejandro Garnacho and Lautaro Martinez potentially getting opportunities in attack, while Giovani Lo Celso and Gonzalo Montiel could also make their first starts of the tournament.


Mark is a freelance football writer based in Madrid. He regularly attends and covers La Liga matches around Spain, whilst also following football across Europe.