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U.S. not looking past Bolivia in Copa America opener

The U.S. men’s national team is in no position to take an opponent lightly as it faces Bolivia in its first Group C match of Copa America 2024 on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

With the Americans ranked No. 11 in the latest FIFA world rankings and Bolivia 84th, the U.S. has an opportunity to take the first step toward advancement to the knockout round.

Victories over Bolivia and the next opponent, Panama (43rd), would ensure that happens regardless of the final group match vs. Uruguay (14th).

The U.S. has bigger ambitions.

“For me it’s getting past the quarterfinal,” midfielder Tyler Adams said. “We need to — in a pressure situation — win in a knockout. That’s going to measure a lot of our success.”

An unsteady run-up to the tournament had skeptics wondering if Gregg Berhalter is the right coach to lead the Americans as they look ahead to hosting the 2026 World Cup.

A 5-1 thrashing by Colombia increased the angst, but a 1-1 draw with Brazil, one of the Copa favorites, eased some of the pressure.

This year, Copa America features 10 South American clubs plus six CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean) invitees.

“When you talk about some of the most watched games, I think aside from the World Cup, you look at the Copa America, right?” U.S. defender Mark McKenzie said.

“You talk about countries that have won multiple World Cups, in Uruguay and Argentina and Brazil. You have the opportunity now to step into this tournament and go head-to-head with them. Ultimately, it’s usually a South American tournament and now we have the opportunity to play against them.”

Bolivia is in transition, with coach Antonio Carlos Zago, a Copa America winner as a player for Brazil in 1999, taking over last fall.

“The most important thing is for us to compete,” he said. “We have to try to play on an equal footing with the big teams in terms of intensity and physicality.”

It won’t be easy. Bolivia has won only one of its past 30 Copa America matches.

–Field Level Media

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