A busy summer of tournament football goes up a notch on Friday when the 2019 edition of the Copa America gets underway. Hosts Brazil, who face Bolivia in the opening game, are the short-priced 11/10 favourites to win the Copa but this is a competition that doesn’t always follow the script.
Even without Neymar in their squad due to injury, there is still a sense of chaos surrounding the Brazilians, with Lionel Messi‘s Argentina not much better off. This may open the door to the likes of Colombia and Uruguay, with the latter at least able to offer a bit of stability.
La Celeste last won this tournament back in 2011 but their record since then isn’t great, failing to make it out of the group stages in 2016.
They shouldn’t have that issue this time around having been paired with Chile, Japan and Ecuador in Group C, which Uruguay are 1/1 to win.
Ecuador coach Hernan Darío Gomez has already admitted he is looking beyond the Copa at next year’s World Cup qualifiers, while two-time champions Chile are a fading force and invitees Japan have taken a young, experimental squad to Brazil.
It opens the door for Oscar Tabárez’s men to power into the knockout stages with their combination of an experienced backline, youthful midfield and fearsome frontline, which should feature Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, despite doubts over their fitness.
They can’t meet the hosts Brazil until the final and even then, the Selecao’s recent habit of struggling to handle the burden of expectation makes them very beatable. Not having Neymar might help with diminishing off-field distractions but someone will need to step up and be the focal point for the hosts.
Argentina still appear to be in turmoil following their dramatic World Cup with Lionel Scaloni only appointed coach in a caretaker capacity. Runners-up in four of the last five Copa Americas, this tournament has provided plenty of heartache for Messi and this could be his last chance to finally win an international tournament.
Argentina will need to hit the ground running having been placed in a tricky-looking Group B with Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.
2022 World Cup hosts Qatar recently won the Asian Cup and will be desperate to impress, while Paraguay have made the semi-finals in two of the last three Copas.
Colombia appear to be Argentina’s main threat though given the decent mix of youth and experience at the disposal of new head coach Carlos Queiroz. The Portuguese has only had three games to check out his new charges so they are something of an unknown quantity but offer plenty of value.
The Cafeteros face Argentina on Saturday night in the pick of the games from the first round of group matches and are 49/20 to open up with a victory.
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