GROUP B of the Copa America kicks-off on Saturday night with defending champions Uruguay taking on Jamaica in Antofagasta. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) examines the best bets.
Uruguay v Jamaica | Saturday 20.00 | Premier Sports
Uruguay’s defence of their record-breaking 15th Copa America title begins with what’s supposed to be a straight-forward three points against Group B outsiders Jamaica. La Celeste remain a force in South American football but much has been made of the absence of all-time top scorer Luis Suarez’s absence with plenty expecting Oscar Tabarez’s troops to struggle to come close to an appearance in the final.
I prefer to reserve judgement. Although Edinson Cavani is a household name and well courted by Europe’s best, he’s a deeply flawed striker. However, El Matador should relish the role as Uruguay’s main man and will be ably supported by Diego Rolan, fresh of an impressive campaign for Bordeaux. The point? La Celeste have plenty of firepower at their disposal, just not the world class match winner of Suarez.
Feeding the front duo might be an issue, mind. Tabarez’s charges are hard workers, feisty, physical and aggressive but often lack the tools to unpick stubborn defences. Nicolas Lodeiro will shoulder the majority of that responsibility but with Cristian Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez providing pace and width, Uruguay should enjoy space and a bit more freedom against a fearless and confident Jamaican outfit.
The Reggae Boyz arrive in high spirits following their Caribbean Cup success in November as well as positive results in their 2015 friendly internationals and could well spring a surprise. Winfried Schafer’s underdogs possess bags of pace, power and athleticism and will look to hit their more illustrious opponents on the break.
Uruguay’s Atletico Madrid centre-half pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez offer plenty of protection down the centre but their attacking full-backs could easily be caught short as La Celeste are asked to take the initiative in this Group B opener; Tabarez’s men are happier when the roles are reversed, making this match an intriguing encounter.
The match prices suggest this will be a mismatch and although Jamaica have W1-D1-L4 in their six fixtures against teams from outside their CONCACAF region under Schafer, I’m not prepared to put my cash on a comfortable Uruguay win. The -1.5 Asian Handicap is odds-on at 19/20 (Bet365) and that’s just too short for a tournament opener.
Uruguay have seen 10 of their previous 16 matches feature Under 2.5 Goals as they tend to adopt a conservative approach and a repeat is certainly a possibility. But I like the idea of covering a potential 2-1 or 3-0 scoreline by having a small poke on 2-3 Total Goals at 21/20 with BetVictor. Both Group A fixtures have been low-scoring affairs but I’m still expecting the competition to open up as we delve deeper.
And finally, I’ll also have a wee dabble on Rolan to score in a Uruguay win at 9/5 with Bwin. As mentioned above, the Bordeaux striker is arriving off an excellent season in France, netting a goal in every other start in for his club and with two goals in five caps already, could easily usurp Cavani in the goalscoring stakes.
Uruguay v Jamaica – 2-3 Total Goals (21/20 BetVictor)
Uruguay v Jamaica – Diego Rolan to score and Uruguay to win (9/5 Bwin)
Could Jamaica upset the odds? Will Uruguay run riot on Saturday night?
Let us know what you’re backing in the comments box below.