Japan v Chile | Tuesday 18th June 2019, 00:00 | Premier Sports
You only really need to look at the squad list of Japan for the 2019 Copa America to really determine where their priorities are focused on. With the exception of a few players, most notably goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, 27-year-old midfielder Gaku Shibaskaki and soon to be free agent after leaving Leicester Shinji Okazaki, then the rest of the squad is made up of players with less than 20 caps between them.
This tournament is essentially being used as a testing ground for the Blue Samurai ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. Whilst they won’t go as far to say they are here to make up the numbers, it would be fair to say that expectations aren’t necessarily sky high. They’ll very much be underdogs.
Regardless of if they did field a somewhat stronger roster, than Japan would very well be classed as outsiders when taking on Chile on South American soil anyway. Regardless of the fact that this Chile squad is somewhat on the decline and perhaps starting to look towards the next generation of stars to lead the national team.
Still, a big emphasis is placed upon star duo Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, but write this team off at your absolute peril. They are stacked with international experienced individuals such as Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, Mauricio Isla, Jean Beausejour, Charles Aranguiz and Eduardo Vargas to name but a few. Remember that this is a Chile team which has won the last two editions of the Copa America, winning on penalties in the final versus Argentina on each occasion.
La Roja did not qualify for the World Cup in Russia and have therefore been playing a series of friendlies over the last year or so. Form across that isn’t so great, but that was the case prior to 2016, the last time the Copa America was played. Nevertheless, they enter the tournament with hopes of making it three in a row, but perhaps admitting that they’ll need a good degree of luck to make that a reality.
Uruguay are strongly expected to largely canter to the Group C top position after three matches, but Chile will therefore really view this encounter with Japan as must-win if they are to upset the odds and win the group. Making the next stage really isn’t in doubt for Chile considering two third-placed outfits shall also progress, but they’ll want to build some momentum and ultimately make the most of their first competitive action since October 2017.
Group C is in quite a luxury position in the sense that finishing in second or third spot would mean they’re on the other side of the draw in the knockout stage to Brazil, meaning they could then only face them in a final, assuming Brazil win their group, as expected. However, finishing second in Group C means a very likely clash with Argentina or Colombia, so finishing in top spot really is vital.
The betting angle
Finding value on the 1×2 market is something of a challenge given that Chile are entered at around 2/5 and 4/9 to get the three points to get their tournament going. You can amazingly get 8/1 on Japan, which does certainly look on the big side, regardless of the fact they’ve got a squad of players mostly aged between 20 and 22.
Comparing Japan on their World Cup form is therefore quite tricky given the sheer difference in squads. For what it is worth, they beat Colombia in Russia, got out of their group and gave Belgium a very big scare in the knockout rounds.
I do think Chile are the team we really need to be focusing our attentions on here. For all that their price is not appealing at all, they are obviously the most likely winner. Japan have a bigger agenda, whilst for Chile it is all about the here and now. Chile do need to take advantage of the fact they face Uruguay in the third and final group match, and six points from a possible six prior to that is key.
La Roja warmed up for this when coming from behind to beat Haiti 2-1 in a friendly. Japan played twice, drawing 0-0 with Trinidad & Tobago and then defeating El Salvador 2-0. Something we’ll notice from looking at Japan’s run of games is that goals don’t tend to flow, at either end. In their last 10 matches, seven has ended below the 2.50 goal line. They’ve only scored 2+ in three of those clashes as well, with Iran at the Asia Cup the only opposition of real note.
Chile have had 13 friendlies since missing out on Russia, and they’ve only won four of those. Eight of those saw Both Teams To Score pay out, but we really can only make so much of bare friendly form over such a prolonged period of time. It doesn’t take into account if certain big names were rested etc, plus they’ve had a coaching change not all that long ago.
Motivation is higher within the Chile ranks, and I back them to win with a clean sheet on this occasion. Chile to win ‘to nil’ is our play and a price of 21/20 (BetVictor) is enough to get us interested.
Japan will offer a limited threat going forward and I can see their young players struggling to come to terms with the occasion, even more so against a vastly experienced opponent that is more than used to these kind of surroundings.
Japan v Chile – Chile to win ‘to nil’ (21/20 BetVictor)