24 Power rankings Copa Lionel: Messi and Argentina remain favorites as knockout round begins

The Copa America has returned to the United States this summer as CONMEBOL and CONCACAF sides have been going head-to-head to determine the best team in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s a tournament with no shortage of star power. Lionel Messi and Argentina have headlined the event. The legendary attacker led his side into this tournament not just as reigning champions, but as reigning World Champions after conquering the field in Qatar in 2022. So far, Messi and his men have been perfect, earning their place as tournament favorites.

Still, it’s not just Messi & Co. Uruguay and Colombia are on the rise, and both looked strong while winning their groups. Brazil may have slipped up in their own opener, but is anyone really willing to write them off? The tournament has had its share of unexpected plot twists and upsets, as well, with both the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico crashing out early in the group stage.

How is the field shaping up ahead of the knockout rounds? GOAL ranks the teams still left in the tournament.

Most recent update: July 3, 2024

It’s safe to say no one expected to see them in the quarterfinals.

Los Canaleros stunned just about everyone with their group stage escape. After falling to Uruguay in their opener, they headed into their second game against the USMNT with their backs against the wall. They needed a result – and they absolutely got a shocker.

Tim Weah’s red card paved the way for a historic win for Panama, who then took care of business against Bolivia. They entered this tournament projected to be one of the competition’s worst teams, but they proved the doubters wrong by getting out of this group

7Ecuador ⬆️

After falling to Venezuela 2-1 in their opener, Ecuador seemed deeply in trouble. They played their way right on out of it, however, to book their knockout spot.

La Tricolor did exactly what they needed to do in the second match, blasting Jamaica 3-1. They then sent Mexico packing with a 0-0 draw, although they did have to survive a nervy ending to put away El Tri.

Meeting up with Argentina is a pretty underwhelming reward. They’ve played Messi and Co. well in recent years, though, earning a 1-1 daw in 2022 before two narrow 1-0 losses over the last year. Even so, it’s hard to see them making the semis.

6Canada ⬆️

Canada started this tournament with a statement, giving Argentina an extremely tough game in their opener. They didn’t earn many style points thereafter, but Jesse Marsch’s side was able to grind out the results they needed in the group

First up was a narrow win over Peru, whose red card doomed them in what was a do-or-die game for them, as well. After that, Canada simply held down the fort against Chile.

Their reward? A winnable quarterfinal against Venezuela, with the victor there going on to face Argentina. If they get that far, Canada will feel they have a chance after playing well in the opener.

An injury to Tajon Buchanan will hurt, though, as Canada will almost certainly be without the star attacker.

  • Salomon Rondon Venezuela Chile Eliminatorias Sudamericanas 2026FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images

    5Venezuela ⬆️

    Finishing atop the group was so important for this side. Why? It means that Venezuela avoids Argentina until the semis.

    First up will be a clash with Canada in a game that feels like it should be close. Venezuela will have no problem dealing with a tight match, though, as this is a team that can grind out a win. They did so against Ecuador, coming from behind after seeing the opponents go down to 10 men. They squeaked out a win over Mexico, too, before then blasting Jamaica to finish off the group stage.

    Veteran striker Salomon Rondon is doing his thing, and the midfield of Yangel Herrera and Jose Martinez won’t be afraid of anyone. The vibes are high right now.

  • Raphinha, Brazil, 2024Getty Images

    4Brazil ↔️

    There were already some doubts about this Brazil team heading into the Copa. Neymar’s injury has left them shorthanded, while a pre-tournament draw with the USMNT showed that this team may not quite be ready for this big stage.

    Those doubts turned into panic after a scoreless draw with lowly Costa Rica to open the tournament. Brazil settled down from there, blasting Paraguay, but the draw with Colombia in the final group stage atch won’t leave many feeling like this team is ready to win this trophy.

    This is Brazil, though, so you can’t really write them off. This team doesn’t look like one that can really beat the other heavy hitters in this tournament, but that will be put to the test almost immediately when they face Uruguay in the quarters.

  • Uruguay Copa America 2024

    3Uruguay ↔️

    Darwin Nunez is hot, and it feels like he could very well power this Uruguay team to glory this summer.

    After cruising past Panama in the opener, Uruguay ran up the score against Bolivia, all but assuring their place atop the group. They then made sure to bury the USMNT in their group finale, squeaking out a 1-0 win that sent the hosts packing.

    Uruguay are a team in form and they’ll certainly know it. They’re the only squad to have beaten Argentina since the World Cup and, if they can get that far, they’ll have proven that they’re ready for that test again.

    Up first is a clash with Brazil, with the winner almost certainly booking a date with Colombia. If they can run the gauntlet of Brazil, Colombia and Argentina to lift this thing, they’ll have completed a legitimately legendary Copa America run.

    2Colombia ↔️

    James Rodriguez has turned back the clock and, as a result, this Colombia team is rolling.

    The 2014 World Cup hero has been this tournament’s best playmaker, showing just how dominant an old-school No. 10 can be even at this level. He’s not the only star on Colombia, though, as this team is feeling it from front to back. With the draw against Brazil, Colombia extended their overall unbeaten streak to 26 games.

    The striker position is a slight concern, but, with James pulling the strings, chances will be there. A cushy quarterfinal game against Panama awaits as a reward for winning the group.

  • 1Argentina ↔️

    There’s no doubt that Argentina remains the clear, unabated favorite. The defending champions’ path to the final looks like a cakewalk compared to the other contenders’ as Lionel Messi looks to make it back-to-back Copa America titles.

    While all eyes are on Messi, as always, this summer has been the Lautaro Martinez show for Argentina. The Inter man has four goals in three games, despite starting just once thus far. He’s brought his club form to the national team, making this Argentina group scarier than it has ever been – which is saying something.

    That’s bad news for everyone else. If Messi can get going, as well, it’s hard to see anyone beating this team.