Copa America predictions: Vinicius Junior to shine for Brazil, Kone the key for Canada

For only the second time in the history of the competition, the Copa America will be held on U.S. soil, which means six teams from CONCACAF have been added to compete with the 10 CONMEBOL nations this summer.

With Canada, USA and Mexico all locked in for World Cup 2026 as co-hosts, this tournament will prove to be a real testing ground to see how they measure up against stiff competition like Argentina (in their first major tournament since winning the World Cup in 2022), Colombia (unbeaten in over two years) and Brazil (a team in transition but always boasting world-class talent).

So, while Brazil legend Ronaldinho may not be watching the tournament, you can be sure Sportsnet’s soccer analysts will be. And they get things started ahead of the Canada-Argentina tournament opener with some picks, bold predictions and players to watch.

Devang Desai (Senior Digital Editor + soccer contributor on sportsnet.ca)

Final four: Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador

Winner: Brazil beats Argentina in the final

Tournament top scorer: Vinicius Junior (Brazil)

Breakout star to watch: Antonee Robinson (United States)Biggest surprise team: Panama

Biggest flop team: Mexico

Can’t-miss group stage match: Brazil vs. Colombia on July 2 X Factor player for Canada: Moise Bombito. Canada’s talent pool has deepened over the last several years, with Jesse Marsch boasting options in attack and midfield. But in central defence it’s a different story, and for CANMNT to take the next step as program they’ll need players once on the fringe to cement their place as mainstays. The 24-year-old Colorado Rapids centre-back has only impressed since being selected third-overall in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft and Bombito’s combination of size and recovery speed is one-of-one in the Canadian setup. If his partnership with fellow defender Derek Cornelius can flourish, so will Canada. Bold prediction: Picking Brazil to win the trophy? How bold is this really, a reasonable onlooker may ask, but hear me out. Argentina has dominated the region in recent times, punctuated by Lionel Messi & Co.’s glorious Qatari send-off at the 2022 World Cup. Meanwhile, Dorival Junior took over as manager of the Seleção and some big names (and egos) are on the periphery in Neymar and Casemiro. An extremely shaky start to 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying has raised alarm but it’s also lowered expectations for a new generation led by Real Madrid superstar Vinicius Junior and 17-year-old phenom Endrick. Even the legend Ronaldinho is skeptical, but it says here Brazil gets it done.

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Final four: Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Colombia

Winner: Colombia beats Argentina in the final

Tournament top scorer: Darwin Nunez (Uruguay)

Breakout star to watch: Kendry Paez (Ecuador)

Biggest surprise team: Venezuela

Biggest flop team: Mexico

Can’t-miss group stage match: Brazil vs. Colombia on July 2

X Factor player for Canada: The obvious pick would be Alphonso Davies, but I’ll go with forward Jonathan David who is coming off a sensational season with Lille in which he bagged 19 goals and finished tied for second place in the French league scoring race. The 24-year-old has 26 goals in 48 international games and if he can get hot at the Copa, Canada could go on a run.

Bold prediction: Brazil enters the Copa América as the second-highest ranked team in the tournament. But the Seleção are still finding their feet under new manager Dorival Júnior and currently sit sixth in South American qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. They’ll finish in second place behind Colombia in Group D and meekly bow out in the quarter-finals.

Julia Ranney (Soccer contributor on sportsnet.ca)

Final four: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Ecuador

Winner: Argentina beats Uruguay in the final

Tournament top scorer: Vinicius Junior (Brazil)

Breakout star to watch: Endrick (Brazil)

Biggest surprise team: Ecuador

Biggest flop team: Mexico

Can’t-miss group stage match: Brazil vs. Colombia on July 2

X Factor player for Canada: The 22-year-old Ismael Kone is Canada’s diamond. In Les Rouges’ 0-0 draw with worldNo. 2 France earlier in June, the Watford star danced around N’Golo Kante and Eduardo Camavinga like schoolchildren on a playground. His creativity and ball control not only proved that he can play with the big boys, but that he will be an important stabilizer at Canada’s first Copa America. In the Championship, the midfielder is known for his progressive carries and ability to move the ball into pockets of space. Will Kone be able to set his teammates — and himself — up for success in this tournament?

Bold Prediction: Rather than predicting which team will bow out early, or which squad will rise to the occasion, my bold forecast ahead of the 2024 Copa America has to do with management. It’s no secret that U.S. men’s head coach Gregg Berhalter is playing with fire. After getting dismantled 5-1 by Colombia on June 8, the debate of the 50-year-old’s ability to lead the Stars and Stripes has reopened — especially with the 2026 World Cup as co-hosts only a few years away. The USMNT fanbase is becoming impatient with the former Columbus Crew boss, and if his team doesn’t start performing against illustrious opponents at Copa America and beyond, I wouldn’t be surprised if the organization parts ways with him in the near future.

———

Emily Wilson (Soccer contributor on sportsnet.ca)

Final four:  Argentina, Brazil, Colombia Ecuador

Winner: Argentina repeating their success after beating Colombia 2-0 in the final

Tournament top scorer: Vinicius Junior (Brazil)

Breakout star to watch: Endrick (Brazil)

Biggest surprise team: I’m backing Canada to pip Peru to third in Group A. They love a challenge and what we’ve seen from Jesse Marsch has (while premature) been promising. The underdog tag always seems to rally this squad.

Biggest flop team: Dare I say the USA? We can expect Gregg Berhalter’s team to get out of the group stage (anything else is an utter disaster) but I don’t see them surviving the knockouts against the elite competition. The USA recently lost to Trinidad and Tobago, drew Brazil and were notably thumped 5-1 by Colombia.

Can’t-miss group stage match: Don’t miss out on Brazil vs. Colombia in the group stages. It’s two powerhouses scheduled on Matchday 3 which makes for a mouth-watering potential group decider. Oh, and Colombia are unbeaten in 22 games, too — that’s over two years!

X Factor player for Canada: The emergence of Ismael Kone has been immense. At just 22-years-old, the midfielder pulls the strings for Watford in the Championship with 46 appearances last season alongside four goals and three assists. He’s level-headed, backs himself to shoot from long-distance and is a strong dribbler.

Bold prediction: Ronaldinho is spotted at a Brazil match despite publicly claiming he will boycott watching the tournament.

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