Brazil v Argentina: Side with the Selecao in the semi

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THE COPA AMERICA semi-finals start on Tuesday night and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts as old rivals Brazil and Argentina lock horns in Belo Horizonte.

Brazil v Argentina | Wednesday 3rd July 2019, 01:30 | Premier Sports

The two pre-tournament outright favourites for the 2019 Copa America meet in Belo Horizonte at the semi-final stage, with the winner earning the right to face Chile or Peru at the weekend.

This was tipped by many to be a likely final, but Colombia’s win over Argentina in the opening group game handed them the initiative, and Lionel Scaloni’s men would finish in second position. Brazil made slightly heavy weather in their first two group clashes, before demolishing Peru 5-0.

At the quarter final stage, Argentina enjoyed a comfortable night over Venezuela; their best performance of the competition, whilst the host nation required penalties to knockout a resilient Paraguay. Thus, this historic footballing rivalry resumes once again.

For all that Brazil are still seemingly yet to really grab this tournament by the scruff of the neck, they continue to be very, very hard to beat. For all that Brazilian football is so often associated with its flair attacking play, it is their back line which is the real star of the show.

Tite has built this Brazilian team to not have a soft underbelly, and all opponents have to work hard to get anything against them. They’re still to concede a goal at this 2019 Copa. In their 14 games since the World Cup, they’ve kept 12 clean sheets, with only Czech Republic and Panama to score against them, whilst only Switzerland and Belgium notched against them at the World Cup, with the Belgians knocking them out.

Aspirations for Argentina looked very low indeed after Colombia thoroughly did a job on them on matchday one. The Argentinians looked all at sea, with the same old problems arising once again. However, there have been certain signs of recovery and improvement over the last two matches, albeit over opposition they should be defeating, and did.

It is perhaps worth considering that Venezuela were without their first choice central defensive pairing Mikel Villanueva and Yordan Osorio in that quarter-final encounter, which made for an easier night for Messi, Aguero and co. Still, they settled into a quick rhythm, whilst Venezuela offered limited offensive threat.

Back-to-back clean sheets inspire confidence for Argentina, although Brazil will offer a much, much, much sterner examination. Lionel Messi has had a quiet tournament by his exceptionally high standards, and Argentina will need him more than ever if they’re to secure a passage into Sunday’s final.

Copa lacking goals

Something of a surprise to many is that this summer’s tournament hasn’t been the littered with the amount of goals many would’ve expected. All of the quarter-finals ended below the 2.50 goal line, with BTTS paying out in none of those. It is now eight games in a row now that it has finished U2.5. Just less than half of the overall matches in the competition has done so as well.

The third round of group stages however still averaged exactly 2.5 goals across the six games, so there was no real evidence to suggest four very low-scoring quarter finals was highly likely. All of Argentina’s games have contained exactly two goals, whilst the 5-0 win over Peru for Brazil has exaggerated their figures.

Three of the four quarter-finals reached penalties, and I’m not so sure if not having extra time at that stage necessarily increased the desire for teams to win inside 90 minutes. Certainly in those three games, there was at least one team in each tie that seemed relatively happy for the game to enter spot kicks, only one of those teams would win.

I don’t think we can confidently rule out the prospect of penalties for this first semi-final, especially as another tight game is expected. The last two meetings has ended 1-0 to either team, although the last official draw came in in September 2011 friendly. Four of the last five H2H has ended U2.5, as well. Eight of the past 13 has done so, too.

I actually tipped up Uruguay to win the tournament outright, but they deservedly departed on penalties after a poor showing versus Peru. I also backed against Argentina to reach the final as my lay of the competition. I’m still yet to be totally convinced by either of these powerful footballing nations, but we can’t deny that Brazil have more going for them.

Hard to oppose Brazil

We cannot ignore their ultra-strong defensive record, and whilst Argentina have back-to-back clean sheets, they’re going to need everything to go right for them on the night. Argentina aren’t necessarily going to sit back and frustrate, like the sort of opponents who Brazil have struggled against has tended to do. At the end of the day, Brazil’s defence is much stronger than Argentina’s, and I think that could sway the game in many ways.

Brazil are the highest-scorers in the competition with eight, but five of those came in one game. In fact, they came across two of their four games after failing to score in the other two. That is despite Brazil having by far the most shots on goal of any nation (84), some 19 more than the next closest challenger in Uruguay. They read 43-34 in relation to shots inside the box compared to outside, which suggests they’re more than happy to fire shots from any angle.

Another telling stat is that Brazil and Argentina account for the two lowest amount of shots conceded on average of any 2019 Copa America side. This also sees them make up two of the three lowest numbers in terms of goalkeeper saves. They may have good numbers for creating chances, but they’re quite stingy defensively. Argentina deserves credit for that considering the reputation their defence ultimately has.

The key for Argentina is to keep Philippe Coutinho quiet, who although had a poor campaign for Barcelona in the club season, he is vitally important for Tite’s men. Only Luis Suarez has had more shots on goal compared to his former Liverpool teammate, whilst only Chile’s Charles Aranguiz has contributed more key passes. Messi headlines most of the Argentina numbers as expected, but there is a lot of attacking quality that will take to the field, but ultimately there is two defensive units who have had good tournaments all things considered.

To play it a little safe, I’ll take Brazil Double Chance and combine it with Under 3 Goals on the Bet365 bet builder. This still pays 10/11, with is the same price for Brazil to win inside 90-minutes, but I fancy my selection to not make you sweat as much!

Best Bets

Brazil v Argentina – Brazil Double Chance and Under 3 Goals (10/11 Bet365)

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