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Analysis | Monday, June 17, 2024 3:54 PM

Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction: Betting Tips Preview

Copa America Player of the Tournament  Prediction: Betting Tips Preview
Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo: Uruguay's Nicolas De La Cruz celebrates scoring the opening goal against Chile

The 2024 Copa America is almost here, and our South American expert Nathan Joyes is on hand to provide us with three potential player of the tournament punts. 

Although it’s easy to get carried away looking at individuals who may score or pick up a man of the match award, it’s best to focus on those who are likely to make it to the bitter end. 

Without further ado, here are my selections from small to large picks, similar to my Top Goalscorer piece – go check that out, too.

Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 1: Lionel Messi, who else?

Copa America 2024, June 21st – July 15th 

I know, I know. But don’t call me a cop out just yet. I actively avoided Lionel Messi in search of each-way angles on my top goalscorer column, but in a win-only market, it would be silly not to back the world’s greatest. For the price, I honestly envisioned it being shorter, and I’ll tell you why.

Argentina are the favourites to lift the 2024 Copa America trophy and let’s be honest, deservedly so. Let’s not forget this is Lionel Messi’s last ever tournament with the national team. If anyone can drag a team to the final and win it, it’s him. 

Believe me when I say it, and as we saw in Qatar, his teammates will fight for not only Argentina, but for Messi. Bowing out having won three tournaments in a row would rule out any doubt in people’s minds that he is the best ever to grace the game.

And who’s going to deny him a player of the tournament award if he captains the team to victory? Even if he isn’t the eventual top goalscorer, which would be a surprise, the headlines are already sitting in journalist’s drafts. You can guarantee that, at least.

Lionel Messi of Argentina

If he does, and better still Argentina wins the final, you would be extremely confident the player of the tournament award will be handed over to Lionel Messi. Hopefully he can celebrate without “Salt Bae” butting in this time round.

  • Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 1: Lionel Messi
  • Best Odds: 13.75 
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 10/10

Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 2 and 3: Darwin and Nicolas

At a much bigger price, it’s hard to ignore Flamengo’s Nicolas De la Cruz’s chances. The Uruguayan midfielder has excelled during the World Cup qualifiers, scoring as many goals as Lionel Messi, as well as leading the assist charts after six matches.

He’s formed quite the relationship with Darwin Nunez, and we’re supporting the Liverpool striker to finish in the top three goalscorers at Copa America, so it makes sense we throw him in the mix here, too.

Nunez’s record under Marcelo Bielsa has been phenomenal. With eight goals and three assists in just seven matches, his ability in front of goal is going to be critical to Uruguay’s success in this competition.

Able to bring others into play with the way in which El Loco wants his front line to interchange when operating in the final third, Copa America could well heal the Liverpool striker who has been criticised throughout the campaign at club level.

However, let’s get back to the man behind Nunez who may not go unnoticed for his overall link up play.

De La Link Up

Similar to Messi, De la Cruz has been responsible for set pieces for both club and country – and he scored a tremendous free-kick against Atletico GO in the first round of Brasileirão earlier this year – which was his first competitive goal for Flamengo.

Not only is he capable from dead balls, the former River Plate midfielder was on the scoresheet when Uruguay defeated Brazil in Montevideo. 

A part of his game which makes him a player of the tournament material is the way in which he times his run into the box to perfection. We’ve seen it vs Brazil, so he’s bound to help out at Copa America if and when called upon.

De la Cruz has match winning ability in his boots and that’s exactly what Marcelo Bielsa will require from his team if they are to go all the way this summer – and it’s also a good factor when it comes to betting on this market.

The way in which Brazil have struggled in the lead-up to the tournament suggests Uruguay would be confident of defeating them en route to the final if and when they meet in either the quarter/semi-finals – another tick for backing a Uruguayan player in the market.

Beating Brazil in the World Cup qualifiers showed how capable Uruguay are on their day, but it also showed what an integral part De la Cruz is to the current system.

Others may argue their captain Federico Valverde would have a better chance of winning the player of the tournament if Uruguay went all the way, but with De la Cruz offering more of a goal/assist threat, his performances are more likely to stand out.

  • Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 2: Darwin Nunez 
  • Best Odds: 13.00 
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 5/10


  • Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 3: Nicolas De la Cruz 
  • Best Odds: 29.00 
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 4/10

Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 4: Kendry Paez

The fact I’m highlighting a 17-year-old to win the player of the tournament should indicate how good Ecuador’s Kendry Paez is. Anyone who has kept close tabs on him will understand why he has made the final cut, but don’t worry, for those who are perplexed, I’m here to explain everything.

Kendry Paez became the youngest ever goalscorer (16) at the 2023 Under-20 World Cup, before stepping up the senior team a matter of months later. An assist on his debut helped Uruguay beat Colombia on home soil, and it wasn’t long before he was breaking more records.

The teenage sensation scored against Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier and once again became the youngest ever goalscorer as a result. 

It’s been the same story at club level back in Ecuador. Continuing to whet the appetite of Chelsea fans with an extended highlight reel of his goals for Independiente del Valle, Paez has scored thunderbolt after thunderbolt domestically as well as in the Libertadores.

Everything the Ecuadorian has touched in 2024 has turned to gold and he heads to the US very much as a player La Tri so desperately need to perform, rather than there to simply gain experience.

You’ll never see him so big again

Ecuador are in a difficult group. The fans haven’t taken to head coach Felix Sanchez, and facing Mexico, Venezuela and Jamaica isn’t as easy as it sounds. Yet there’s a possibility that they can win Group B if Paez continues to showcase his attacking talent in his number 10 role.

A first place finish would see them skip Argentina until the semi-finals, and a quarter-final tie vs either Chile, Peru or Canada is an incentive they must take.

Those who aren’t aware of Paez certainly will be during and after the tournament, and if Ecuador can find themselves in the semi-finals, Paez will be on the podium at the very least as one of the better players.

Don’t expect him to shy away from the challenge, either. Since signing for Chelsea, his performances have only improved with the spotlight on him. Having debuted in the Copa Libertadores at 15, Paez has always shown he has the mentality to go on and be one of the best players in the world over the next decade.

He’ll certainly have his time to win numerous individual awards throughout his career, but you’ll never see the attacking midfielder priced this big ever again.

  • Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction 4: Kendry Paez 
  • Best Odds: 101.00 (Each Way)
  • Bookmaker: bet365
  • Stake: 4/10

Copa America Player of the Tournament Prediction odds via bet365 as at 12:00, June 16th, 2024. Odds may now differ.

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