THE COPA AMERICA quarter-finals continue on Friday night and Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) is in the hot-seat for Colombia's contest with Chile.
Colombia v Chile | Saturday 29th June 2019, 00:00 | Premier Sports
The pick of the Copa America quarter-final contests takes place on Friday night as ever-improving Colombia face defending champions Chile in Sao Paolo. It’s the tightest betting heat of all four last-eight encounters with Colombia starting as fair 5/4 (Marathon) favourites and Chile around 14/5 with the same firm.
I came into this competition keen to oppose Chile. The back-to-back champions missed out on the World Cup with their much-vaunted golden generation in desperate need of regeneration; the bulk of their squad came through the ranks together at the U20 World Cup in 2007 but the ageing process hasn’t been kind as La Roja’s players have been overplayed and overworked with four tournaments in the past five summers alone.
Reinaldo Rueda arrived to head up the restoration project in January 2018 – the Colombian was a logical choice with considerable World Cup experience with both Honduras and Ecuador, as well as being a Copa Libertadores champion. Making his name as a youth development specialist, he ticked all the boxes, but transition hasn’t been easy.
The lack of available and capable younger talent to replace the old-timers is almost non-existent and the process of renewal has been made much harder by the lack of patience from the local press and public. Media hysteria surrounding the plight of Chile has projected a very negative light over La Roja making the reinvigorating process incredibly difficult.
His squad features six players with more than 100 caps and nine players the wrong side of 30. The average age is almost 29 and the youngest outfielder is just 24, evidencing their age issue. Although, the introduction of Guillermo Maripan in defence has given the backline much-need height and fellow newcomer Erick Pulgar has excelled in midfield.
Chile to run out of steam?
Chile have had to adapt under Rueda. His personnel simply aren’t capable of their lung-busting efforts from the days of Marcelo Bielsa or Jorge Sampaoli and therefore a more cautious approach is required. La Roja’s boss trialled a 3-5-2 system in March which was brought back for their final group game against Uruguay to relative success.
Alexis Sanchez has looked lively in the hole and Chile found space out wide. The extra centre-back also allows the wing-backs extra cover but once Uruguay worked things out, the novelty wore off and La Roja were second-best. Mauricio Isla, Jean Beausejour and Arturo Vidal were at least given a rest and should return in a similar formation on Friday night.
Colombia aren’t renowned for their width and that’s an area Chile will undoubtedly target. Charles Aranguiz remains the key for the underdogs, although they’re likely to come under long, sustained spells of pressure and I have doubts on whether they’ll be capable of coping. After all, victories over Japan and Ecuador were flattering in their first two fixtures.
Chile have bagged just W1-D1-L6 in their most recent meetings with continental rivals inside FIFA’s top 40 rankings, firing blanks in half of those outings. That’s an obvious concern, especially with La Roja racking up the lowest Expected Goals (xG) tally and creating the joint-fewest big chances across all the eight quarter-finalists thus far.
Colombia to continue upward trajectory
After six years under the stewardship of Jose Pekerman, Colombia have continued their upward trajectory with a series of eye-catching displays in competitive contests under new boss Carlos Queiroz. Los Cafeteros have reached the knockout rounds of the past two World Cups but often underachieved in the Copa; however, 2019 could be different.
There’s enthusiasm around a squad that blends youth and experience, characterised by the continuity at centre-half with Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina, playmaker James Rodriguez and bang in-form striker Duvan Zapata. With Wilmar Barrios earning rave reviews in the middle, plus an excellent support cast behind the first XI, Colombia are in a great place.
Los Cafeteros were composed and clinical against Argentina, overcame Qatar despite sitting in second gear and then saw off Paraguay when making 10 changes to the team with top spot in Group B already assured. Indeed, the margin of victory in their last game could and should have been far greater with Colombia’s second string making a positive impression.
Colombia are looking dangerous in possession and strong at the back. Queiroz’s penchant for pinning opposition teams back with a high press has worked a treat and should make for a fascinating fixture on Friday, and it’s difficult to disagree with Los Cafeteros at odds-against quotes – my tissue make the favourites closer to an even-money shout.
The betting angles
Colombia have suffered a solitary loss in 19 – when going down to 10 men early against Japan at last summer’s World Cup – and have now W8-D1-L1 since the end of the World Cup. Los Cafeteros have claimed victories without conceding in six of the seven games Queiroz has taken charge of and kept clean sheets in 14 of their last 18 triumphs.
The jollies have notched in all bar one of their last 15 encounters – encouraging considering Chile have silenced only five of 16 sides since Rueda arrived in the hot-seat – and that extra ability, and firepower in reserve, is likely to be the decisive factor.
I’m not overly keen on playing the Win To Nil considering Chile have scored in all bar one of their last nine and in 11 of their most recent 14 fixtures, so instead a straight play on Colombia at 5/4 (Marathon) is absolutely fine and a value play.
Argentine official Nestor Pitana is the referee. He averages 5.18 cards per-game in 2018/19, as well as 59.09 Bookings Points. Unfortunately, the majority of bookmakers haven’t released their cards markets at the time of writing but I’ll be looking to attack combinations of Colombia double chance, Under 3.5 Goals and at least one booking for each team, or at least one card in each half – details of which I’ll share on Twitter on Friday afternoon.
Colombia v Chile – Colombia to win (5/4 Marathon)