WHO’S going to be crowned Copa America champions? We asked the BBC’s South American football correspondent Tim Vickery (@Tim_Vickery) and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for their favourite outright bets.
Tim Vickery’s Verdict
Mark O’Haire’s Verdict
Who’ll be crowned kings of South America in the 44th edition of the world’s oldest international football tournament? It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve been asking myself that question at least four times a day for the past four weeks but after hours and hours of pondering, I’d like to think I’ve settled on my plan of attack.
As football journalism God Tim Vickery has pointed out across the site, the Copa kicks-off a new cycle of South American football and for the vast majority of sides competing over the next four weeks, will act as a warm-up for the real business – the World Cup qualifiers – that begin in October. Seven of the 12 teams will be playing their first competitive games under new coaches but once the action gets underway, all 12 nations will be dreaming of lifting the trophy in Santiago on 4 July.
It’s an odd competition too. Only four of the 12 sides will head home after the group-stage thanks to the qualification places for the best two third-placed teams and with no extra-time available in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, a 0-0 draw and penalty shoot-out success could be enough to progress – just ask Paraguay about their run to the final four years ago!
So back to that question we started with… who the heck wins it? Well, it comes down to a process of elimination and so we’ll start with the draw. Why? Well it ain’t pretty for tournament favourites Argentina (5/2 Sportingbet) nor defending champions Uruguay (14/1 William Hill) in Group B.
Assuming (yeah, risky) both big-hitters take the top two positions in Group B, a potential quarter-final against Brazil or Colombia awaits the runners-up. And an almost certain semi-final against Brazil or Colombia lies in wait for one of those top-two positions. The bottom-half of the draw could be filled by Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil and that’s a recipe for disaster when contemplating outright bets on any of those three nations.
So lets take a look at the top-half. Win Group A and a third-placed finisher will be in opposition in the last eight – you’d presume that’ll mean a semi-final spot. Finish runners-up in Group A and you’ll be taking on Brazil or Colombia in the quarters (whoever takes second place in Group C) – see ya!
Copa hosts Chile (9/2 Bet365) were available at 6/1 a fortnight ago and with a run to the semi-finals on home soil looking well within their grasp, it looked a stonking bet. The 9/2 still holds plenty of appeal thanks to the soft draw but again, the draw (see a theme here?) suggests Colombia or Brazil will be waiting in the final four – bad.
Unlike their rivals, La Roja have been gearing up to peak at this summer’s competition, hoping to end their 99-year wait for a continental crown. Coach Jorge Sampaoli’s contract expires at the end of the competition and the adoring public not just hopes, but expects…
I have my doubts whether Chile can beat Colombia or Brazil but seeing as they’ve a potentially breezy route to the semi-finals, we’ll get them in the book on an each-way fare. Reach the final and we’ll pocket a few quid.
Not one side will arrive at the tournament without a flaw or two but I really like the look of Colombia. I reckon they’re a decent bet to top Group C at the prices but should they finish second, they’ll get an easier passage to the final – avoiding Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. A probable last eight encounter with Ecuador is negotiable before that potential semi with the hosts.
Los Cafeteros might be rebuilding their defence but Jose Pekerman’s men possess the tools to really trouble Chile. At 6/1 (Paddy Power) they look underrated and can continue their journey towards the head of the South American football table. We’ll add them as an each-way prospect too, ensuring we won’t end up empty-handed should they fail in the final.
And finally, I’ve been giving the Name The Finalists market the eye and she’s finally invited me over to her place for a glass of wine and a soppy movie. I fancy my chances of getting lucky and so I’ll have a throwaway fiver on the Colombia-Brazil final at 7/1 (SkyBet).
The way the draw pans out, I’m quietly confident one Group C team can reach Santiago via the top-half and to be honest, I wouldn’t discount either side’s chances of seeing off Argentina in the semi-finals. Every nation has its faults, including Argentina, and I absolutely detest touching short-priced pre-tournament favourites at the best of times.
Both Brazil and Colombia boast enough nous, nuts and match-winners to get the better of Messi and co and represent far better options in the outright market. For those who enjoy the bigger prices, a Chile-Brazil final (10/1 SkyBet) and Chile-Colombia final (18/1 SkyBet) could also be nibbled at and should give you a decent run for your money.
Tim Vickery – Brazil to win the Copa America (10/3 William Hill)
Tim Vickery – Ecuador to win the Copa America (33/1 each-way SkyBet)
Mark O’Haire – Colombia to win the Copa America (6/1 each-way Paddy Power)
Mark O’Haire – Chile to win the Copa America (9/2 each-way Bet365)
Mark O’Haire – Name The Finalists: Brazil v Colombia (7/1 SkyBet)