CHILE picked up maximum points in the Copa America opener against Ecuador and now it’s over to Mexico and Bolivia to take centre stage in Group A.
Mexico v Bolivia | Saturday 00.30 | Premier Sports
Two teams looking to banish their Copa America nightmares from recent years meet in Vina del Mar in the early hours of Saturday, knowing a win would give either side an outstanding chance of reaching the knockout phase.
Mexico bombed out of the 2011 tournament with three defeats from three and scoring just once and although Miguel Herrera’s men made many friends in last summer’s World Cup, El Tri arrive in Chile with an experimental squad.
It’s not quite the inexperienced U23 group that took to the field four years ago – there’s plenty of top-level experience from Mexico’s burgeoning domestic league and Herrera claims the selection are good enough to reach the semi-finals – but the big hitters have stayed home to prepare for the Gold Cup in July.
Mexico concluded their preparations with a 2-0 defeat to Brazil on Sunday and much depends on Herrera’s ability to gel his new-look team together in time. A big advocate of a 3-5-2 formation when going forward, expect El Tri to revert back to 5-3-2 when in defensive mode. Whether in defence or attack, width is key and so there’s big responsibility on Gerardo Flores and Adrian Aldrete to get up and down the flanks.
Herrera’s already confirmed his side but doubts remain over who’ll be deployed in central midfield. Even so, the Olympic gold medallists should have enough talent at their disposal to take advantage of an undercooked Bolivian squad.
BetVictor’s 3/5 quotes on a Mexican win are hard to argue with but it’s worth noting that even with their first-choice starters available, El Tri have managed just five wins in their last 16 outings. Those victories came against Croatia, New Zealand, Panama, Cameroon and Jamaica and in a tournament primed for potential shocks, there’s little appeal in such a short price on the Central Americans.
As for Bolivia, El Verde are looking to progress from the group stage of the Copa for the first time since hosting the competition in 1997. The mountainous country arrive on the back of a return of W1-D6-L9 in their past 16 matches and will be looking to improve upon one of the worst away records in international football.
Bolivia have been through three coaches already this season and played just one warm up game for the Copa – that ended in a 5-0 hiding against tournament favourites Argentina – but it’s that rotten road form that must be addressed if El Verde hold any realistic aspirations of progression.
Bolivia are winless away in competitive games since 1995 (W0-D10-L39) with 24 of those 39 losses coming by at least a two-goal margin. That record is only slightly better when competing in the Copa – since 1999 they’ve returned W1-D3-L7 figures. Even so, it’s a diabolical return for the altitude specialists who produce their best work in the high climes of La Paz.
Boss Mauricio Soria has promised to go on the offensive this month in order to cure their dismal goalscoring record and so whilst El Verde may come up short against Mexico and their Group A rivals, hopefully Bolivia will go down fighting should Soria be believed.
Bolivia have failed to net in nine of their last 12 away World Cup qualifiers but interestingly, four of their last five fixtures have featured at least four goals, emphasising the potential for goal-heavy games. Target man forward Marcelo Moreno is burdened with goalscoring duties in an inexperienced squad but whether he has enough nous and support to trouble the Mexicans remains to be seen.
It’s difficult to find the faith required to support the underdogs and so supporting Mexico in some form makes most sense. Betfair have chalked up a Mexico win with Over 1.5 Goals a 10/11 shot and that looks to be the best value option on offer. We’ll get paid out should Mexico win and the match features at least two goals.
Mexico v Bolivia – Mexico to win and Over 1.5 Goals (10/11 Betfair)
Could Bolivia upset the odds? Are Mexico’s second string likely to run out comfortable winners?
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