Venezuela v Argentina: Underdogs can make their mark

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THE COPA AMERICA quarter-finals continue on Friday night and James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts as Argentina take on Venezuela.

Venezuela v Argentina | Friday 28th June 2019, 20:00 | Premier Sports

Venezuela versus Argentina is certainly one of the more interesting matchings in the 2019 Copa America quarter-finals, and the bookies have the Argentinians as odds-on to get the job done inside 90 minutes. They made it out of their respective group as runners up behind Colombia, but needed a final match victory over Qatar to do so.

Venezuela, unlike Argentina, are unbeaten so far, and they were involved in a group containing Brazil. Whilst the market suggests this should be a routine win for Lionel Messi and co, it is perhaps more likely to be closer than the odds suggest. Much closer.

Anyone with a degree of knowledge about international football in this region will be more than aware of the issues Argentina have had, and continue to have. Former West Ham full back Lionel Scaloni is the man in charge now; the somewhat cheap option to replace the sacked Jorge Sampaoli after a more than disappointing World Cup campaign.

Argentina's scatter-gun approach

Whilst their results have improved as the tournament has progressed, they’ve gradually faced opposition of decreasing quality. Scaloni makes change after change to both personnel and system as he looks to get the best out of Messi and Argentina as a collective. In his 13 matches at the helm, he has never named the same XI.

More changes are set to follow it would appear. Spurs central defender Juan Foyth looks primed to possibly take on a right full back position, whilst Sporting left-sided Marcus Acuna is expected to replace Real Betis playmaker and Tottenham transfer target Giovani Lo Celso. This seemingly scatter-based selection from 41-year-old Scaloni, in his first outright managerial job, is not helping their cause in relation to building any kind of cohesion as a unit.

Whilst Argentina won last time out versus Qatar, making more switches here will likely disrupt any momentum they possibly gained. The 2-0 win over Qatar wasn’t super convincing either, Qatar actually had 50% of their shots on target, whilst 12/19 of Argentina’s were not. The possession stats were quite close at 54-46.

Venezuela dangerous underdogs

Venezuela are very much the underdogs going into this contest but that will suit them right down to the ground. There could be an argument that they shouldn’t be underdogs however based on the fact that they did defeat Argentina when these sides last met. It is also worth mentioning that this contest came only a few months ago in March, too.

Venezuela were 3-1 winners on the night and there was no fluke about it whatsoever. Scaloni again tinkered with his tactics on and occasion and the three at the back system certainly did not work. Considering they have a roster full of rather laborious defenders, it left them very vulnerable, and Rafael Dudamel’s side took full advantage.

There aren’t really any secrets about this Venezuela outfit, only Bolivia has a smaller average possession figure at this summer’s tournament, yet they have the fourth-highest average dribbles per game. Expect them to counter attack, which is when Argentina are at their most vulnerable.

For all Argentina have a wealth of attacking talent, and Venezuela are relatively content to sit back, it is worth remembering that Argentina have only averaged two more shots on goal in comparison. Argentina are winless in the last three meetings with Venezuela, winning only two of the latest six head-to-head. If Argentina are to progress, then it is likely that they are going to be made to sweat.

Back Venezuela to score

It’s worth remembering that there is no extra time at this stage of the competition. Games go immediately to penalties if level after 90, but Venezuela won’t necessarily be playing for spot kicks. They’ll firmly believe they can get this done beforehand, whilst Argentina certainly won’t want to rely on an end of game lottery.

Venezuela have proved very tough to beat over time. Whilst they perhaps needed a bit of help from VAR in the group stages to help them, we cannot deny that teams don’t tend to have it all their way against them. They haven’t lost a competitive game since March 2017 when going down away to Chile in World Cup qualification.

Finding a selection in this game is quite easy in my eyes in the sense that we have to do something to get Venezuela onside. The only fear is that if Argentina do suddenly click, but they’ve had a long time to do that now and they continue to make things hard for themselves. I’m also wary of backing against any side that contains Lionel Messi, but he has found it very tough to carry the weight of responsibility in an Argentina shirt over the years at recent major tournaments.

The clean sheet for Argentina over Qatar last time out was their first competitive clean sheet since the last World Cup qualification campaign when drawing 0- 0 at home to Peru in October 2017, a game they were priced at 2/9 to win, but failed to do so. They conceded in every game in the World Cup in Russia, including when drawing to Iceland when priced 1/3 to get the win. They are simply not reliable at short prices and I don’t think anyone should be rushing in to back them or even put them on any accumulators.

The price on Venezuela just to score a goal appeals my instantly and it is one I’m more than happy to put my faith in. Venezuela will be tested defensively but they’ve more than proved as recently as a few months ago that they can score against this team – three times in fact. Venezuela Over 0.5 Goals at 17/20 (Betway) will be a play.

They will get chances. They failed to score in two of their three group games but they’ll face a side here that play quite openly. Their attempts to qualify for Russia was a bit of a disaster when finishing bottom of their group, but they still managed to score in ten of their 18 games, including away to Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Play your cards right

I like to consider a cards selection in all Copa America games this summer. Most of the officials are card happy to say the least and VAR is involved way more than it probably should have.

Colombian Wilmar Roldan will oversee this particular meeting, and he has already officiated a Venezuela game when covering their match with Peru. He issued a red card on that occasion. There has been a red card in 50% of the last eight games he has refereed. He loves a card.

Only Qatar have earned more bookings than Argentina in this competition, whilst Venezuela have the joint-least along with Uruguay. I’m happy to have a play on Argentina +1 Card Handicap at 10/11 (Bet365).

Best Bets

Venezuela v Argentina – Venezuela Over 0.5 Goals (17/20 Betway)

Venezuela v Argentina – Argentina +1 Card Handicap (10/11 Bet365)

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