Copa América 2024 bigger than European Championship? Lionel Messi knows it is

Kylian Mbappe clearly ruffled some feathers last week when he suggested the European Championship was the world’s most difficult international soccer competition.

“The Euros are complicated. For me, more complicated than a World Cup,” the French national team captain said at a news conference before his team’s first game.

Hold my beer, said former club teammate Lionel Messi, who led Argentina past France in an epic 2022 World Cup final, in which he and Mbappe — who broke his nose in France’s Euro-opening win over Austria on Monday — combined for five of the game’s six goals.

Sure the Euros, the quadrennial championship for FIFA’s 55-member European confederation, is difficult. However, don’t sleep on Copa América, the South American tournament expanded this year to include the U.S., Mexico and four other teams.

“Well, everybody prioritizes their tournament,” Messi fired back in a TV interview ahead of the Copa América opener Thursday between Argentina and Canada. “The Euros is very important and has the best teams, but he’s leaving out three-time champion Argentina, five-time champion Brazil, two-time champion Uruguay.

“There are a lot of world champions left off to say that it’s the most difficult tournament.”

Not just world champions. In top-ranked Argentina and No. 5 Brazil, the Copa América field also has two of the top five teams in the latest FIFA world rankings. Colombia, which is also in the 16-team field, hasn’t lost in 23 games over more than two years, the longest unbeaten streak in international soccer.

A third of the 24 teams in the top-heavy Euro field are ranked outside the top 32.

With that as an introduction, here are four things to watch when the 48th Copa América kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta:

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