IT’S semi-final time in the Copa America with tournament hosts Chile taking on surprise package Peru first in Santiago on Monday night. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the betting angle.
Chile v Peru | Tuesday 00.30 | Premier Sports
Have you all enjoyed the Copa America thus far? Apart from losing the majority of my savings for a house deposit, it’s been an enthralling affair, I reckon. The passion, desire, aggression, tenacity and will to win displayed from all 12 nations has made for some tasty tussles and Monday night’s semi-final showdown between Chile and Peru should be no different.
You see, these two countries hate each other. They’re rivals, in the old sense. It’s a grudge match, a battle for bragging-rights with no hiding place for the loser. Known locally as the ‘Classic of the Pacific’, the Andean neighbours have been fighting politically for centuries so don’t be surprised to hear the Peruvian national anthem drowned out by jeers and whistles from a hostile home support.
Tournament hosts Chile have the sanctuary of Santiago to aid their bid for a place in the Copa final but even without home advantage, La Roja would be expected to see off their lesser opponents. Peru’s preparations were riddled with disorganisation and the Incas have been playing catch-up ever since Ricardo Gareca was appointed head coach in March, just three months before the South American football festival kicked-off.
But it must be said, the two-time Copa America champions have once again risen to the big occasion on the continent. Four years ago the Incas reached this very stage against the odds and now Gareca’s team are bidding to go one better and book a place in the final. They’ve done it all on merit and I’m hopeful and expectant of a full-blooded, entertaining skirmish.
Peru’s chances and aspirations will no doubt rest on their mind-set approaching an away fixture but also their wing play, which has been a revelation so far. On the right, Jefferson Farfan and full back Luis Advincula have been constant menaces whilst the opposite flank has featured one of the players of the tournament in Christian Cueva tricky feet have caused plenty of problems, ably assisted by Juan Manuel Vargas.
Gareca will have noted Chile’s lack of aerial prowess in defensive areas and so there’ll be a big onus on those four to supply quarter-final hat-trick hero Paolo Guerrero and veteran striker Claudio Pizarro when Peru decide the time is right to attack the hosts. If the Incas are to succeed though, they’ll need to improve on a road record that’s seen them W2-D6-L27 in 35 away World Cup qualifiers dating back to 1998.
Chile, despite their relatively soft draw, have proven to be the best performing nation at the Copa and their four outings have also given us plenty of entertainment. Jorge Sampaoli’s side are a joy to watch in full flow but they’ll have been a little concerned at their lack of a cutting edge in their feisty last eight encounter with Uruguay.
Could that cost them against a Peruvian defensive unit that’s looked reasonably solid and composed so far? I’d like to think not. Jorge Valdivia has really risen to the role as La Roja’s chief playmaker and although Peru can welcome back the central midfield pairing of Josepmir Ballon and Carlos Lobaton to add bite in the middle of the park, Chile have enough potential match winners across the pitch to unlock their unfancied visitors.
For Sampaoli though, a decision must be made on who will replace Gonzalo Jara in the heart of their defence. Jorge Rojas, a natural centre-half looks most likely to fill the void but you expect the Chile head coach to be more concerned about stopping the supply of crosses to Peru’s pivotal front pairing. And I’m unconvinced the tournament hosts are capable of doing that.
So with that in mind, I’m prepared to have a look at the relative goals markets for this encounter as well as exploring cards markets and a home victory. Those are the three themes that stick out strongest when viewing this showdown. Last year’s friendly between the two was won 3-0 by Chile but Peru were down to 10 men as early as 39 minutes into the match – just proving the high-tempered nature of this fixture.
Seeing as this competition has proven a bit of a punting nightmare, I’m going to dive in, and take the 4/1 from Ladbrokes on Chile to win and Both Teams To Score whilst Sportingbet’s 4/5 on La Roja scoring Over 1.5 Goals seems a steal considering Sampaoli’s charges have done so in 23 of their past 24 competitive matches. But it would be rude not to also a wee fiver on BetBright’s 21/10 that we see a red card – things are about to hot up in Chile!