Lionel Messi Plays Down Argentina's 2019 Copa America Chances

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2019

EZEIZA, ARGENTINA - JUNE 05:  Lionel Messi of Argentina gestures during a training session at Julio H. Grondona Training Camp on June 5, 2019 in Ezeiza, Argentina. Argentina will participate in the upcoming Copa America to be held in Brazil from June 14th to July 7th. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)
Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Lionel Messi has said Argentina are not in as good a position as previous years to win the Copa America as they are "going through a process of change."

La Albiceleste have reached four of the past five finals and lost them all, including the last two on penalties to Chile.

They kick off their 2019 Copa America campaign in Brazil against Colombia on June 15 before further Group B fixtures against Paraguay (June 19) and Qatar (June 23).

Not least because of Messi's presence in the squad, Argentina are among the favourites to go all the way:

Oddschanger @Oddschanger

Copa America 2019 odds: 🇧🇷 Brazil - 5/4 🇦🇷 Argentina - 7/2 🇺🇾 Uruguay - 8/1 🇨🇴 Colombia - 9/1 🇨🇱 Chile - 10/1 Who's your money on? 🤔 (18+) https://t.co/WHi2g8PfAV

But the Barcelona superstar has played down his side's prospects ahead of the tournament, per Argentinian outlet TyC Sports (h/t ESPN FC): "We are not candidates like other times. We will go with the same dreams and excitement as always, but the reality is that Argentina is going through a process of change."

Unlike his club football, Messi's international career has been one of perennial disappointment.

He won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 but has lost three Copa America finals, in 2007, 2015 and 2016, as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.

After the 2016 defeat, Messi briefly called time on his international career before returning to guide Argentina to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where they lost in the first knockout round to eventual champions France.

At 31, Messi is still at a level barely any other player could hope to reach.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner netted 36 goals and provided 13 assists in 34 La Liga appearances in 2018-19 as Barca retained the title:

Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden

Messi ends the league season involved in more goals (36 goals, 13 assists) than 12 La Liga teams, level with Villarreal on 49. Only Valencia (51), Celta Vigo (53), Atletico (55), Levante (59) Sevilla (62) & Real Madrid (63) are ahead of him.

But he also endured crushing disappointment in the UEFA Champions League, as Barcelona squandered a 3-0 first-leg lead in the semi-finals against eventual winners Liverpool.

Per ESPN FC, Messi said he feels physically prepared ahead of the Copa, but he acknowledged the Liverpool defeat was a blow: "[I am] more tired and frustrated in the head than with the physical aspect, more than anything because of the Champions [League] elimination. It's been the fewest minutes I've played in the last years, I feel fine."

Despite Messi's assertion Argentina are not among the favourites, they still have a strong squad, with Sergio Aguero also fresh from a strong season with Manchester City:

B/R Football @brfootball

The squad Argentina take to Brazil for Copa America this summer 🇦🇷🌎 https://t.co/beD5mE9qlN

However, the problem with Argentina teams of the recent past is they have always been less than the sum of their parts.

They may have the personnel to go deep at the 2019 Copa America, but if they fail to mesh as a squad, Argentina and Messi will leave Brazil disappointed once again.