Copa America team-by-team betting preview
Having fought their way to last summer’s World Cup final, Argentina arguably have an even better squad for this summer’s Copa.
Adding to existing attacking options, Carlos Tevez and Javier Pastore have been recalled following arguably the best season of their careers, while Nicolas Otamendi’s outstanding performances at Valencia have also been welcome – and, considering Argentina’s defensive weakness, maybe more important. They also have a coach, Gerardo Martino, who gets on with Messi – he was supposedly appointed at Barcelona two years ago for that very reason.
Overall, the first XI is unlikely to be significantly different from Alejandro Sabella’s chosen side (when he played 4-3-3, rather than the 4-4-1-1 he switched to for last summer’s World Cup). The main difference is that Angel Di Maria will be a forward alongside Messi and Sergio Aguero, rather than as a shuttling midfielder, which could mean a combative trio of Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia and Fernando Gago, although Javier Pastore and Ever Banega might offer more guile.
Argentina have a good draw, too, although are likely to meet Brazil at the semi-final stage. They’re deserved favourites.
Few in Brazil welcomed the return of Dunga as Brazil manager, although he’s brought fresh ideas to the side and this is now a very different team to the one which bombed in last year’s World Cup semi-final.
Whereas Felipe Luiz Scolari played a traditional old-school number nine in Fred, Dunga seems likely to play Roberto Firmino, a modern all-round attacker who is arguably more of an attacking midfielder, but nevertheless scores plenty of goals. His constant running should work well with Neymar in the number ten position just behind. Diego Tardelli, a cross between the two styles, is an alternative.
In a rough 4-2-3-1 formation, Dunga likes variety from the flanks which probably means Coutinho drifting in from the left and Willian playing a more functional role from the right. The rest of the side is typically Brazilian, with a solid backline and two combative midfielders, probably Elias and Fernandinho.
Brazil are likely to play on the counter, and get the ball to Neymar as quickly as possible. They have a trickier group than other favourites, but 7/2 is a good price.
Host nations generally perform well – and Chile won’t have many better opportunities to win their first-ever Copa.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli won’t deviate from the approach which took Chile to a narrow second-round exit at the hands of Brazil last summer. The formation is flexible – usually 3-4-1-2, sometimes 4-3-3 – but the overall approach is consistent. Expect heavy pressing, quick balls into attack and an incredibly high-tempo game throughout.
Alexis Sanchez will lead the line, effectively as an inside-forward with Eduardo Vargas his main support, but Arturo Vidal will rush forward from midfield (hopefully with more discipline than he showed in the Champions League final) while the midfield combination of Marcelo Diaz and Charles Aranguiz outwitted Spain in last summer’s World Cup, and are amongst the few midfield duos likely to play on the front foot in this tournament. Claudio Bravo, fresh from a fine season with Barca, will sweep behind a high defensive line, which can be prone to mistakes and fouls.Chile have a habit of playing well at major tournaments without getting the results they deserve.
Progress from Group A seems certain, but their quarter-final match will be tricky. At the last two World Cups and the Copa of 2011 they went out at the first group stage to strong opponents – that might happen again.
The team which won the hearts of the neutrals at last summer’s World Cup looks in equally good shape this time around.
In truth, little has changed. The return of Radamel Falcao gives Jose Pekerman a dilemma upfront, with Jackson Martinez and Carlos Bacca battling it out to start alongside him in a 4-2-2-2 formation which usually features Juan Cuadrado hugging the right touchline, James Rodriguez drifting inside from the left, and Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sanchez sitting solidly in front of the defence. Rodriguez can switch with a second striker, effectively forming a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Much will depend upon Falcao’s fitness – he looked sharp in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica, Colombia’s only pre-tournament friendly. But even more important will be the centre-back combination. Mario Yepes might have been old, but he was brilliant at last summer’s World Cup. Pedro Franco and Jeison Murillo are very inexperienced.
A similar situation to the World Cup, then, and probably a similar outcome – some moments of magic, but probably not the trophy.
No Luis Suarez. Repeat: no Luis Suarez. The striker voted the tournament’s best player four years ago is still suspended, following his bite on Giorgio Chiellini at last summer’s World Cup.
His place should go to the energetic Diego Rolan, but it’s Edinson Cavani who must finally take responsibility on the biggest stage, and lead the line effectively. As usual, Oscar Tabarez will probably change formation against the biggest sides but his default is a simple 4-4-2, albeit with Nicolas Lodeiro now a regular in the centre of the pitch, bringing more creativity to a previously functional side.
The backline is probably the most settled in the competition, with the Atletico Madrid combination of Jose Giminez and Diego Godin either side of the two Pereiras, Maxi and Alvaro. Expect clean sheets – Cavani’s performance will dictate how well Uruguay play upfront.
Mexico are one of two guest sides at this competition, to get the Copa up to a workable 12-team format. Last time around, Mexico embarrassed themselves with ill-discipline off the field, and poor performances on it. Coach Miguel Herrera won’t let that happen this time around, but it’s difficult to see them causing a shock.
That’s because, as often happens, Mexico are concentrating on the Gold Cup instead. That means no Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela or Hector Herrera, for example. Essentially all the Mexicans who have impressed over the past half-decade are absent.
Mexico never fail to produce talented youngsters – Marco Fabian is an exciting attacking midfielder, for example, while Rafael Marquez, inevitably, is still captaining the side as sweeper. But with so many big names out, 28/1 seems ludicrously short.
Ecuador have a new manager, in Gustavo Quinteros, but are likely to stick with their old approach.
That, essentially, means focusing heavily upon width. Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero are old-school wingers who like bursting down the outside and crossing the ball, while Juan Carlos Paredes and Walter Ayovi storm forward from full-back. The latter, in particular, is a tremendous crosser.
Enner Valencia is the obvious target for crosses with his outstanding leap, while newcomer Miller Bolanos provides mobility and energy alongside and might be a decent outside bet for top goalscorer. Christian Noboa is the other outstanding player, in the centre of midfield, but it feels like the 4-4-2 formation will leave Ecuador too open.
Incredibly, Paraguay reached the final in 2011 following a run of five consecutive draws – and that might be their only hope here.
Paraguay lack goalscoring ability upfront, with the same old names – Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrio, Nelson Valdez – still in the squad, and still not on form, a regular problem that has become somewhat Portugal-esque.
Coach Ramon Diaz has tried both a 5-3-2 and a 4-3-3, but doesn’t seem remotely certain of his best XI. The only reason for positivity is Raul Bobadilla, a talented attacking midfielder finally getting a chance at international level – but he won’t be enough to cause a shock.
Counter-attacking appears the order of the day for Ricardo Gareca’s side, considering they have few top-drawer defenders and little genuine creativity from central positions.
However, they boast two excellent wingers, Schalke’s Jefferson Farfan and Sporting’s Andre Carillo, plus a bustling centre-forward in Paolo Guerrero who finished top goalscorer in this competition four years ago.
They’ll probably play for goalless draws against Brazil and Colombia, with the game against Venezuela set to decide things.
Venezuela, meanwhile, have a squad roughly as talented as Peru – but probably more balanced.
They have some tough-tackling defenders with Fernando Amorebieta joining Oswaldo Vizzcarrondo and Gabriel Cichero, both outstanding in this tournament four years ago, although all three are the wrong side of 30.
The midfield boasts the defensive qualities of Tomas Rincon and the brilliant left foot of veteran Juan Arango, and upfront there is genuine ability. Salomon Rondon runs the channels and gets into the box, Miku is sporadically excellent and energetic forward Josef Martinez hit the winner in a friendly against Peru in March. They seem more likely to finish third in the group than Peru.
South America’s weakest side have little to shout about. Coach Mauricio Soria has a fine record in the Bolivian top flight and knows plenty of his players well, and has spoken about trying to play a more aggressive style of football than previously, when Bolivia sometimes went down without a fight.
A recent 5-0 defeat to Argentina summarises their level, with only talented forward Marcelo Martins offering real quality going forward. They’ll have to come flying out of the gates and defeat Mexico in their first game to have any chance of progression.
The second invited side, and with all due respect, this feels like something of a novelty team. The standout names are Garath McCleary, Jobi McAnuff and Adrian Mariappa – all English-born, and linked by being relegated with Reading two years ago.
Coach Winfried Schafer is highly experienced and likely to get the side playing organised, counter-attacking football. But in a group with Agentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, getting more than a point would be surprising.
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June 10th, 2015 by Michael Cox
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