THE Copa America final arrives from Santiago on Saturday night featuring hosts Chile and pre-tournament favourites Argentina. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) bids to round off the competition with a winner or three.
Chile v Argentina | Saturday 21.00 | Premier Sports
It’s three weeks since Chile kicked-off the Copa America party but it’s been nearly four years in the making. Jorge Sampaoli’s side have had their eyes on the prize and everything has been put in place to end La Roja’s 99-year wait for a major international trophy. Hosting the 2015 edition of the Copa with arguably their strongest ever squad of players is supposed to be the calling for Chile to finally scratch that itch.
The hosts’ path to the final always looked relatively straightforward and so suggesting an each-way punt on La Roja to get here was always a wise outright pick. Only home supporters would probably have wished for any other opponent than Argentina – not only do they hold a horrid recent record against their continental foes but they come up against a South American giant looking to end their own wait for a trophy.
La Albiceleste have gone 22 years without tasting senior glory but following their 6-1 destruction of Paraguay in the semi-final, many believe the current crop are ready to claim major honours. Skipper Lionel Messi has not scored since the opening game but he had a significant part in five of their six semi-final goals in a ridiculous display; it was a real statement of intent and sets us up for a fascinating finale.
Chile produced arguably their nerviest performance when overcoming Peru 2-1. In fact, it could have been a different story had their old rivals not been reduced to 10 men after 20 minutes. Sampaoli’s charges still struggled to stamp their authority on Peru and defensively there are a number of questions that require answers before considering the 14/5 (Bet365) on the home team.
Sure, La Roja can boats clean sheets in three of their first four fixtures but without their fastest centre-half Gonzalo Jara, Chile struggled. Jose Rojas is unlikely to keep his place after an uncomfortable showing in that semi-final with Sampaoli also likely to switch to a back-five. Francisco Silva should come into a system involving three centre-halves – playmaker Jorge Valdivia might be asked to make way.
Defensively Chile have never really convinced. Any punter backing them to keep clean sheets needs their head testing and it’s been proven in their results – under Sampaoli they leaked 25 goals in World Cup qualifying, keeping just one shutout in four outings at last summer’s World Cup.
The hosts will still look to attack. They’ll hustle Argentina and hassle the favourites for possession as high up the park as possible. Again, the flanks will be an important outlet and they’ll be keen to enhance their excellent home record – unbeaten in three years of competitive action in Santiago. However, the last team to win in the Chilean capital in a meaningful match was, you guessed it… Argentina.
La Albiceleste have taken plenty of flak in this competition – I’ve been happy to put the boot in too – but I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised to see Tata Martino’s troops at 23/20 with BetVictor to win in 90 minutes. Most teams have tended to shut up shop against Argentina but backed by a boisterous home crowd and with Sampaoli’s Bielsa-like approach immovable, the favourites should be afforded more space and opportunities to do some damage on Saturday night.
Like Chile, there are doubts over the defensive structure. Paraguay caused problems in a 15-minute rally before half-time of the semi-final and Ezequiel Garay’s fitness is still unconfirmed. A lack of pace has proven a real weakness at the back and so Martino’s men will need to guard against the pace of Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas.
Argentina’s recent competitive record deserves serious respect, though. In their last 26 games, La Albiceleste have lost just once – their final World Cup qualifying fixture when they’d already won the qualifying group. Looking at their results in major tournaments and they’re unbeaten in 16 (W8-D8-L0) since the 2010 World Cup.
Earlier I mentioned Argentina’s superior head-to-head record against Chile. They’ve lost just once since 1990 in 18 meetings (W1-D6-L11) with Messi and co beating Chile home and away in 2014 World Cup qualifying, scoring six goals. In the last 14 showdowns between the two across the past 20 years, La Roja have scored just eight goals and more than once on only one occasion!
So what’s the bet(s)? As you can probably tell, I’m keen on Argentina at the quotes and I wouldn’t put anyone off taking the 23/20 with BetVictor and to keep things simple, that’s where we’ll start. But I’m adding two more pro-Argentina punts into the mix here too.
Messi continues to cement his place as the world’s greatest and quite possibly the best ever player to grace our planet. No player has fired in more shots than the wee genius at this Copa and should he come anywhere close to his mesmeric semi-final performance, he’s bound to score. I’ll add the Argentina/Messi wincast at 5/2 with Bwin.
And finally, I did point out the obvious concerns regarding Argentina’s defence. Chile themselves have plenty of firepower and will expect to get on the scoresheet. They’ve netted at least twice in 12 of their past 15 competitive games and so we’ll take Argentina to win and Both Teams To Score at 19/5 with Coral. Five of the last six Copa finals have featured three goals or more and this bet fits that bill at a massive price compared to touching Over 2.5 Goals.
Chile v Argentina – Argentina to win (23/20 BetVictor)
Chile v Argentina – Argentina to win/Lionel Messi to score (5/2 Bwin)
Chile v Argentina – Argentina to win and Both Teams To Score (19/5 Coral)
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