Copa America: James O’Rourke’s favourite pre-tournament fancies

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JAMES O'ROURKE (@JamesOR1) shares his favourite pre-tournament fancies from the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.

Copa America | 14th June – 7th July 2019 | Premier Sports

The 2019 Copa America gets going this weekend and Brazil will be hosting the 46th edition of the famous competition. This particular year is given added significance as two teams from outside the CONMEBOL, Japan and Qatar, will also be taking part.

Qatar are the first Arab nation to ever play in this tournament, but Japan will play in their second, the first of which came in 1999. Mexico had been ever-present since 1993, but won’t appear this time around, and neither the USA.

Brazil, minus an injured Neymar, are deemed favourites to lift the trophy in Rio de Janeiro on 7th July.

Best Group Bet

I must admit I was at first a little disappointing to see the lack of specific group betting markets for the 2019 Copa America. However, there is a good reason for this. Not only do the top two from all three groups progress into the knockout stage, but also the best two third-placed side. That’s means that means eight of the 12 participating nations will make it out of the group.

To locate a decent bet for the group stages outright, there are only really two groups we can focus on. Group A can be of no significant interest given that Brazil are big, big favourites to finish in first place. They should do, considering their competition is Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru. 2/9 is the best price you’ll get on Brazil in that regard.

Even without Neymar, they should have far too much for the opposition, so it is probably the battle for second place which takes greater significance.

Group B has something of a more open feel to it with regards to who may end up in the number one spot. It is quite significant to both Argentina and Colombia to try and win this group, as it would mean they would avoid playing against Brazil until the final, should they both reach it. If you fish around, you can find 10/13 prices on Lionel Messi guided Argentina to top spot, but Colombia at 16/11 will represent decent value in the eyes of some.

Argentina just have not convinced enough for a while now to be massively confident about them. Messi really is everything to them, and Argentina haven’t had the best of results against the better footballing nations over the last few years. Nevertheless, I’ll give Group B a swerve, especially as Colombia can be somewhat erratic themselves. Paraguay and Qatar will likely battle it out for one of the best third-place spots.

Group C therefore is where our particular interest lies in terms of finding a decent bet in terms of finding a group winner. Granted, the price is not so high, but I must admit I expected it to be a little shorter. I’m backing Uruguay (Group C Winner), which is available at evens in quite a few outlets, such as Bet365, whilst drifting into 10/11 elsewhere.

There are two reasons for this. The main and obvious one is that Uruguay are a pretty good team! They enter the tournament with the best strike force in the form of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are certainly among the best central defensive pairings, too. The spine to this team always makes them hard to beat and a live threat to anything in their way. They’ve been together for a long time now and they all know the time of day.

Another reason for backing them is the opposition they’ll face. I might be too quick to dismiss the chances of Chile, a nation who has won the last two Copa America titles. However, they’ve just not done enough to convince me that they’ll hit the ground running. Alexis Sanchez remains their star man, but he has had a season to forget at Old Trafford. Sure, they’ll go Arturo Vidal, but he won’t necessarily win them games.

Eduardo Vargas tends to save his best for this competition, but he is not a name that’ll spark fear into the likes of Godin, Gimenez and co. Uruguay v Chile will likely decide this group in the final game, and, just like in Group B, it is important to win this group to potentially avoid facing Brazil until the final. Ecuador and Japan are no pushovers in this group either, but I don’t think any of us can deny that Uruguay are the best team.

Tournament Lay

It is never especially easy to find a good lay selection when it comes to football. Certainly in my eyes. However, I do think there is one selection which has tickled my fancy in that regard. I’ll run you over my thought process. Of course, the outright markets for the 2019 Copa America are pretty slim.

We have Outright Winner, To Reach The Final, Top Goalscorer and then Group Winners. That at least narrows down where we can pick a decent pick from. Ultimately, it all starts from the group, and positioning within the group is so important when it comes to later in the tournament.

I’ve already touched upon how key it is to win Group B and Group C to avoid tournament favourites Brazil until a potential final. Now, there is every chance that Brazil will face one of Argentina or Colombia in a likely semi-final. Even before that, Brazil will likely face one of Chile, Japan, Ecuador, Paraguay or Qatar. Chile could make life tough for them but we’re ultimately going on past showings.

Brazil in their host nation will be under immense pressure so I’m quite happy to take a watching brief with them.

One nation however which I have failed to deliver the goods time and time again however is Argentina. For all they have additional talents in their squad like Aguero, Di Maria and Dybala, it all comes back to Messi doesn’t it. He is the one them need to perform. Of course he has the ability to do so, but ultimately Argentina have to do the goods at the other end of the pitch, too.

That is where I have my doubts. They did not convince in the last World Cup and made absolute heavy weather of just reaching that tournament in the first place. We’ve only really got friendly form to go off since then, which is never ideal, but they’ve not really set the world alight. They did the double over Mexico, and that was without Messi, but these were experimental games from both.

Brazil and Colombia are arguably the two strongest opponents they’ve faced since returning from Russia, and failed to win either of those. They lost to Venezuela earlier this year, with Messi playing the full 90. Whilst they scored five versus Nicaragua in their warm-up match prior to the 2019 Copa America, they conceded a goal. That is just not forgivable considering they’ve lost to Guatemala and Haiti in recent times.

I just cannot have Argentina at all. Messi is the best player of all time in my eyes so part of me hates going against him, but he needs help and I can’t expect him to take them all the way to the final.

Therefore, my lay is Argentina (To Reach The Final), which is priced at 13/8 (Betfair). Even if they did win their group, they’d probably come up against Chile in the next round and probably Uruguay in the next. I just think one of those two would ultimately make life very, very tough for them. My outright selection in the next column will further reflect that.

Outright Winner

I’ve already built a bit of a case for them at the top of this article in terms of winning their group. However, I’m more than happy to throw my weight around Uruguay (Winner) at 15/2 (William Hill). I make them an each-way selection just in case something potentially goes against them in the semi’s and beyond, but I think they represent great value.

I won’t go over the reasons I’ve touched upon before how Uruguay qualified very well for Russia and it took eventual champions France to knock them out in the end. They do tournament football pretty well and find a way to navigate a path towards the latter stages. Óscar Tabarez is of course at the helm and the old-timer knows what it takes to win this tournament, having led Uruguay to the title in 2011. These players want to play for the 72-year-old, and it’d just be a bit of a romantic story for him to get another honour on his CV.

Brazil are big favourites to be victorious. I initially felt not having Neymar would really be a weakness for them. Of course he is a top player and lots goes through him, but you could argue we’ll now see a rounder team in Brazil now. Others will have to step up to the plate instead of just expecting the PSG winger to do the goods. They’ve certainly got enough cover.

I wouldn’t necessarily be put off by him not being present, but I just have doubts about them in terms of consistency. Once again, we can only really go off friendlies of late, and that is a risk, but they tend to be one extreme or the other. Beating Honduras 7-0, who had 10 men for an hour, is one thing, but drawing to Panama is another. That to be proves they could have issues breaking stubborn teams down, say someone like Uruguay who conceded only three goals at the World Cup. I don’t think there is any value whatsoever in Brazil. They could well lift the trophy but I think they’ll make you sweat for an 11/10 price.

Argentina are my lay so I’m quite glad to see them the price they are as we get a good price in that regard. Then it comes to three other teams who realistically are fighting it out for the crown. Uruguay, Colombia and Chile. I’ve stated by case for Chile, so why won’t Colombia or Chile be victorious?

Well, it again comes to a lack of consistency. Colombia have a solid squad in name but they just don’t do things easy and have a habit of finding a way to come unstuck when you least expect it. They lost to Japan in the first game in Russia, and then beat Poland 3-0 afterwards. They were lucky to take England to penalties. Again, consistency. A bit like Brazil, they’ll make you sweat for anything. To their credit, they’ve actually performed quite well in friendlies, but on the main stage if think they’ll fall short.

Chile are very much a team and that makes them a threat, especially on the big stage, but they didn’t even qualify for Russia and to me it just proves they’re in transition to a degree. The next generation need to start coming through and this could be one of the last hurrahs for them. They’ve only won five of 13 friendlies since missing out on Russia, and two of those opponents were Honduras and Haiti. I think they fall short when it comes to the crunch.

Uruguay just have so much going for them, and above all they’re a solid outfit.

Best Bets

Copa America – Uruguay to win outright (15/2 each-way William Hill)

Copa America – Lay Argentina to reach the final (13/8 Betfair)

Copa American – Uruguay to win Group C (1/1 Bet365)

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