WHO’S going to take Golden Boot honours at the Copa America? We asked the BBC’s South American football correspondent Tim Vickery (@Tim_Vickery) and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for their favourite outright bets.
Tim Vickery's Verdict[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/206967980″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]
Mark O'Haire's Verdict
Three of World Cup 2014's five top-scorers were South American. The continent took the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot, and made up seven of Fifa's team of the tournament. Europe, take note! CONMEBOL remains the home for superstardom.
In the outright preview I’ve highlighted my concerns regarding the group and draw as well as outlining a few pointers about the competition, which may/may not play a part in your punting thinking. The Copa America is a unique tournament that produces shocks around every corner – just look at 2011’s semi-finalists and the eventual top goalscorer – Peru’s Paolo Guerrero.
It’s no surprise to see Lionel Messi chalked up as 7/2 (Betfred) pre-tournament favourite. The Barcelona magician is back in the form of his life and has flourished as Argentina’s main attacking threat over the past 24 months. But backing a 7/2 shot for Top Goalscorer is an arrestable offence – especially when taking into account La Albiceleste’s potential route to the Santiago final.
Three of the last five top goal-getters at the Copa America have been Brazilian – you could say four of the last five as the 1999 award was shared between two – and Neymar is rated 13/2 (Betfair) next in line to follow suit. The Selecao skipper has impressively taken on the burden of leadership responsibilities and is now ranked fifth on all-time leading scorers list for his nation, averaging 0.69 goals-per-game.
True, the bulk of those goals have come in non-competitive internationals but Neymar showed the world 12 months ago what he’s capable of in the canary yellow of his homeland. The 23-year-old will also be on set-piece and penalty duty, which should only aid his chances of finishing top of the tree.
However, I’m still not tempted by the 13/2 and instead, I like the look of unearthing unwanted gems. Starting with Brazil and Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino at 20/1 with William Hill. Unknown in his home country just a matter of months ago, Firmino has replaced Fred at the tip of the Selecao’s attack but will offer a much more mobile service to his targetman predecessor.
Bundesliga fans will know the 23-year-old boasts a fierce shot from range and with Neymar being given a free role to roam, you’d expect Firmino to be presented with plenty of opportunities, particularly in the tournament opener against an under-prepared Peru before rounding of Group C against a worryingly out-of-shape Venezuela.
Another 20/1 (Coral) price that stands out is Manchester United misfit Radamel Falcao for Colombia. Despite doubts on British shores, El Tigre continues to be a key cog in Jose Pekerman’s side and it’s just a question of who will join Falcao in Colombia’s two-pronged attack – Teo Guiterrez or Carlos Bacca with Arsenal target Jackson Martinez starting from the bench.
Falcao’s 24 goals in 56 national team appearances mark him out as a world class poacher and being offered the responsibility and confidence to lead the country should spark a return to the player we all fell in love with during his Porto, Atletico and Monaco days. El Tigre will take his place in Group C where goals could flow against the lesser lights of Peru and Venezuela and with a negotiable passage to the semi-finals, we should get at least five games out of Colombia’s captain.
It’s rare for a World Cup Golden Boot winner to pick up the same prize just 12 months later in a continental competition, especially when playing from midfield but James Rodriguez can’t be ignored at 33/1 (SkyBet). James has proven himself as a world-class talent over the past year and like Falcao, should benefit from a decent draw.
James is the brains of the Colombia attack and although the 23-year-old will be a marked man in Chile, his wand of a left boot should give defences nightmares from set-pieces and open play. It would be a surprise if the playmaker wasn’t amongst the goals once more and should offer punters a decent value each-way punt to cheer on.
I looked for a nice meaty price but it looks like Tim has already covered that base with Enner Valencia. Raul Jimenez is a touch at value at 100/1 but I’ll stick to the three mentioned above and cover them all each-way – we’ll get a quarter of the odds should they finish second or third.
Tim Vickery – Neymar to be Top Goalscorer (13/2 Bet365)
Tim Vickery – Enner Valencia to be Top Goalscorer (66/1 BetVictor)
Mark O’Haire – Roberto Firmino to be Top Goalscorer (20/1 e/w William Hill)
Mark O’Haire – Radamel Falcao to be Top Goalscorer (20/1 e/w Coral)
Mark O’Haire – James Rodriguez to be Top Goalscorer (33/1 e/w SkyBet)
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