A summer of senior male international football tournaments get underway in the early hours of Saturday morning when the 2019 Copa America gets started out in Brazil with 12 nations once again looking to be crowned the best in South America.
As ever to make up the field there are two invited countries taking part and they are the next World Cup hosts and Asia Cup winners Qatar along with their fellow Asian outfit Japan who join the 10 South American sides.
2016 – Chile
2015 – Chile
2011 – Uruguay
2007 – Brazil
2004 – Brazil
2001 – Colombia
1999 – Brazil
1997 – Brazil
1995 – Uruguay
1993 – Argentina
The 12 teams get placed into three groups of four with the top two after each side have play the other three in the section progressing to the quarter finals along with the two best third placed finishers. The tournament then becomes a straight knockout from there with the quarter finals going straight to penalties after 90 minutes while the semi-finals, third placed play-off and the final all having extra time and penalties if needed. The champion will be crowned on July 7 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
As host nation and generally perceived as the best side in South America it is no surprise to see that Brazil are the favourites for the tournament but we’ve seen them have a few mishaps in competition football in recent times, not least that 7-1 pounding in the semi-final the last time they hosted an event back in 2014. You have to go back 12 years for the last time they won this tournament and they will be without their star man Neymar for this event as he picked up a horror injury in a warm up match against Qatar. With their draw there is enough to suggest they should be favourites but 23/20 does nothing for me.
Argentina are predictably the second favourites for the tournament at 4/1 but they remain one of the biggest mysteries in international football at the present time. A nation that has offered the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria, Carlos Tevez, Hernan Crespo et al in recent years should not have won nothing since 1993. They have made four of the last five finals of this tournament and a World Cup final in between but come up short in the lot and if you are backing them here you really need them to win the tournament at the price. I don’t see this squad being as strong as ones which have gone before so on that account they can’t be for me.
Uruguay go into the competition as the 7/1 third favourites to get the crown back which they last won eight years ago and they will probably know this is the last chance for their golden generation to taste success on the big stage. The next World Cup is likely to come too late for the likes of Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani so it is now or never for many of the squad. That should give them a lot of motivation and with a kind draw you would expect them to go very well.
Colombia have shown their prowess on the big stage in the last few years with them making the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2014, finishing third in the last Copa America and making the knockout stages in Russia last year but you sense they are just beyond being at their absolute best. That said, if they win a group which looks between themselves and Argentina, the draw opens right up for them so they shouldn’t be completely ruled out at 9/1.
Chile go in search of a third Copa America title in a row which would be some achievement, even allowing for the fact that their first two crowns were won in successive years. A little like Colombia, they might be just beyond their peak in terms of their star names and their current standing in the game but if Alexis Sanchez believes he has a point to prove and does so, and Arturo Vidal inspires this lot they could run well at 14/1.
Peru have been improving on the international stage in recent times and this might be their golden chance to deliver a really positive showing on a big platform but a lack of tournament experience can go against them while their discipline has to be taken at face value. Being drawn in the same group as Brazil probably doesn’t help their cause either in fairness so I would suggest their 25/1 quotes are fair and no more.
I’ve just got to go against Brazil and Argentina at the prices. Brazil probably just about remain the likeliest winners of the tournament on home soil but at 23/20 they can win if they are good enough. I’d rather not sweat on a stinker of a performance in a knockout match which is creeping into their game more and more. Argentina do absolutely nothing for me this year either so I’m going to side with third favourites Uruguay as my main bet.
I think ‘La Celeste’ have a nice draw in Group C where they are going to qualify at some point and have every chance of being the group winners which will keep them away from Brazil until the final. Their motivation will be obvious here. This will be the last major tournament for much of their squad with their high profile players all on the wrong side of 30 but with players like Lucas Torreira, Jose Gimenez and Maxi Gomez mixing in with the experienced stars they have a nice blend. There are a few players in this squad who tasted success in Argentina eight years ago and their last hurrah could be another successful one.
I’ll also have a small play for Venezuela at the prices. They’ll make it into the knockout stages even if it is as a third placed side because Bolivia look like whipping boys in their group. They have been threatening a big show for a while now. They were fourth in 2011 and out-qualified Uruguay on their way to the quarter finals of the expanded event in America three years ago. They are thriving at the younger age groups, having finishing runner up to England in the under-20 World Cup in 2017 and a number of that squad are here for this one. They are another team with a good mix of youth and experience and walloped a relatively strong Argentina side 3-1 in a friendly in Madrid in March. They are the dark horses for my money.
There are some great forwards on show in this competition so the top goalscorer market is going to be quite a competitive one. The one thing which is paramount is picking a player from a side who makes the semi-final for the extra two matches that come with that. Being in an open and high scoring group would be helpful too I suspect.
I fancy Group C will fit that bill. Chile like to play an attacking style, while Japan regularly leave themselves exposed at the back and I saw Ecuador against Mexico last weekend and they looked all at sea defensively. The man who could take advantage of that is Luis Suarez. He might be relatively short at 8/1 but I see Uruguay going deep here and he has three defensives to feast on and possibly another in the quarter final if they win their group. If Qatar can keep the score down in Group B I think Suarez is a great chance here.
I’ll also have a nibble of the 50/1 on Salomon Rondon to top score too. He is the lone striker for Venezuela these days and comes into the tournament off the back of a brilliant season for Newcastle United. He scored a couple in the match against USA last weekend so he is in very good form and with one or two defences there to be exploited his price may not reflect the chances he has of bagging the four or five goals that should deliver some sort of return.
The three groups are all priced up for this tournament. I don’t think there is a lot of mileage opposing Brazil in Group A and I’m pretty keen on Uruguay’s hopes in Group C but Group B is the interesting one where Argentina are the odds on favourites but look the weakest of the three jollies in the groups.
It may well be that they get it together at last but too often they struggle in tournament play, especially in the group stages. They were minutes from not making it out of the group in Russia last year and just don’t convince me. By contrast, Colombia tend to fly out of the traps in tournaments but then struggle the longer the competition goes on with fitness to key men often a thing taken on chance. I do think the 7/4 on them topping Group B has enough legs for a bet though with Paraguay and Qatar surely playing for the hope of being one of the best third placed sides.
Back Uruguay to win Copa America (e/w) for a 2.5/10 stake at 8.00 with Betway (1/3 1-2)
WON – Back Colombia to win Group B for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with Betway
Back Venezuela to win Copa America (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with William Hill (1/3 1-2)
Back them here:
Back L.Suarez Top Goalscorer for a 2/10 stake at 9.00 with Betfred
Back him here:
Back S.Rondon Top Goalscorer (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 51.00 with Bet365 (1/2 1-2)