SOUTH AMERICAN football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over Group A's contest between Venezuela and Peru in Porto Alegre at this summer's Copa America, highlighting his best bets.
Venezuela v Peru | Saturday 15th June 2019, 20:00 | Premier Sports
Both Venezuela and Peru boast realistic claims as potential dark horses at the 2019 Copa America. Unfortunately, the pair have been pitted together in Group A alongside tournament hosts and outright favourites Brazil, and they kick-off their campaign with a pivotal showdown in Porto Alegre on Saturday night.
Peru were neutrals' favourites at the World Cup 12 months ago and unfortunate to escape from a tricky group alongside eventual champions France, Denmark and Australia. After a 36-year absence from the global stage, Los Incas’ fanatical fans made sure they enjoyed the occasion whilst Ricardo Gareca’s charges made a positive on-field impression.
Of course, expectation levels increase with such eye-catching efforts and La Blanquirroja are the first to admit they’ve yet to really kick-on from Russia. Gareca agreed to stay in situ but Peru have registered just three triumphs from 10 friendly fixtures (W3-D1-L6) with some supporters suggesting the Argentine’s 4-2-3-1 system has become a little too predictable.
However, I’m not getting too bogged down by those post-World Cup performances. Peru arrive with a very similar squad to last year, packed full of potential, experience and consistency – all key ingredients to Copa America success. Of course, Gareca’s group are a little top-heavy, but few can rival the power, pace and panache of their attack.
Veteran forward Paolo Guerrero – with 11 Copa America goals – provides thrust up front after his long-term ban and he’ll be ably supported by the exciting trio of Edison Flores, Cristian Cueva and Andre Carrillo tucked in behind. Gareca’s offensively-minded outlook should also lend itself to plenty of exciting and entertaining encounters too.
Venezuela keen to make their mark
So often CONMEBOL’s rank outsiders, Venezuela have made heady progress in the past decade. Although finishing rock-bottom of the elongated World Cup qualification process for 2018 with only two triumphs suggests otherwise, La Vinotinto have been make small strides in the right direction and easily overcame a Lionel Messi-led Argentina 3-1 in March.
Producing a similar level of performance is obviously key in competitive action but Venezuela under Rafael Dudamel are a different beast. The former goalkeeper has focussed on making the Caribbean coast country difficult to beat since taking charge in April 2016, as well as putting particular emphasis on the nation’s talented youngsters.
Baseball is king in Venezuela and although the social and political crisis continues to headline at home, the Copa America’s historically-worst performers have risen to an all-time high of 29th in the FIFA rankings. La Viotinto have W5-D9-L4 since the start of 2017 with four of those victories arriving in their most recent eight outings,
La Viotinto don’t often win prizes for aesthetics – Venezuela prefer to play a fast, direct counter-attacking system with Salomon Rondon the perfect focal point leading the line – but it’s a system that’s played to their strengths and could easily cause problems to a Peru defence that’s far from physically imposing.
The betting angle
Venezuela and Peru played out two 2-2 draws in their recent World Cup qualifiers meetings and are well aware their individual strengths are in the final-third of the field. That’s characterised by their unflattering clean sheet returns over the past year as they’ve combined to keep a collective six clean sheets from 20 outings since the World Cup.
Both Guerrero and Rondon can be considered the most pivotal player on each team’s roster and are likely to play a key part in their attacking systems. Rondon accounts for 45% of international goals within the Venezuela squad, whilst Peru have lost five of their last seven games when they’re skipper has been absent.
Tournament openers tend to be tight affairs but all the evidence suggests this showdown in Porto Alegre could prove fruitful for Both Teams To Score backers at 15/13 (Sportingbet). The selection has already seen money this week and has banked in eight of Venezuela’s last 11 outings with La Viotinto notching in each encounter.
Venezuela v Peru – Both Teams To Score (15/13 Sportingbet)