He has won the treble with Barcelona this season. With completion of this, he has won every glory of club football, but he hasn’t won any major title for his country. For Lionel Messi, this edition of Copa America is an acid test to lead Argentina to clinch the title. The 27-year-old failed to clinch the World Cup last summer, after Argentina bowed out to Germany in the finals by a solitary goal. The tournament kicked off at Chile on Thursday as the hosts notched up a convincing 2-0 win over Ecuador in the opener in Santiago.
Argentina is the hot favorite of this edition of the tournament. The 14-time champions haven’t tasted blood in Copa America since 1993.
Gerardo Martino’s star-studded side will start their campaign against Paraguay on Saturday. Clustered with defending champions Uruguay, and runner-up Paraguay, Argentina face tough challenge in group-stage. Jamaica is the fourth side of the group. Martino’s side thrashed Bolivia 5-0 in a warm-up game. Messi didn’t feature in the game but Sergio Aguero netted a hat trick. The Barcelona star joined Argentina’s camp last weekend and trained alongside Carlos Tevez, who also featured in the Champions League final at Berlin for Barca’s opponents Juventus. Argentina missed the services of hit-man Tevez throughout the World Cup last year, especially in the finals. Messi’s side will also bank on Manchester United star Angel Di Maria.
Argentina bowed out to 15-record champion Óscar Tabárez’s Uruguay in the quarterfinals through penalty shoot-out in the last edition in 2011. Messi and Co will look forward to avenge the defeat on June 17, when Argentina take on Uruguay in a group league encounter. Eight-time winner Brazil shall start against Peru on June 15. 2007 champions Brazil under Dunga is placed in Group C with Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.
Coming back to Thursday’s opener, two-time runner-up hosts Chile in the hunt for their maiden title rode on second half strikes from Arturo Vidal’s 67th-minute penalty and Eduardo Vargas to edge past Ecuador. Bolivia and Mexico are other two sides of Group A. Mexico will face Bolivia on Friday. Defending champions Uruguay will kick off their campaign on Saturday against Jamaica.