In the first of a three-part series, football expert Tom Love (@TomLove_18) assesses this summer's Copa America tournament with a specific focus on Group A that includes hosts Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela.
2019 Copa America Group A Betting Preview, Odds & Tips
The biggest competition in South America kicks-off on the 15th June with hosts Brazil heavily fancied to lift the trophy in front of their own fans. Below we'll look at each of the four teams in Group A.
Brazil – 6/5 (Paddy Power)
It's no surprise to see the Seleção as clear favourites for this inaugural tournament. They have such strength in depth, particularly in midfield and forward positions and not only that it's being played in their own back yard utilising the stadia that hosted 2014 World Cup fixtures.
There is one big miss for the Brazilians though with the mercurial Neymar unavailable for selection. That news had seen them drift out slightly from 5/4 to 11/8, which is understandable given his phenomenal goal scoring record for the national team (60 goals in 97 games). However, to my surprise, the money has been coming for the hosts with them coming back in to 6/5.
There's plenty more options though for Tite to choose from. Gabriel Jesus should be fresh having been a bit-part player at Manchester City, the same can be said for Phillipe Coutinho at Barcelona. Elsewhere, Everton's Richarlison is highly thought of in his native country and he can provide bite and aggression as well as a goal threat. Roberto Firmino has had a long season so it will be interesting to see if he features prominently. Whereas young newcomers David Neres and Lucas Paqueta can come off the bench to create an alternative kind of threat.
Defensively they still can be got at though. Thiago Silva is still in the squad which is surprising to me, he was poor at the 2014 World Cup and hasn't really recovered. Miranda and Filipe Luis are both ageing too and against pace could struggle; Marquinhos is a decent player though and versatile in that he can play centre half and defensive midfield as he showed at Old Trafford for PSG earlier this season.
Fernandinho, Allan and Arthur provide a nice balance in the middle of the park but don't be surprised to see Coutinho play a more withdrawn central role in midfield to provide added creativity.
It's difficult to work out if the 6/5 on them is value or not, initially it doesn't make much appeal given the amount of games to go through to win the entire tournament. It may surprise a few to learn that Brazil are not top of the list of Copa honours, they're not even second but they sit third underneath Argentina and Uruguay, so history isn't totally on their side either.
Having said that, they have a very negotiable group you'd think with Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela the opponents. They may not have to hit top gear until the latter stages which could benefit them from a fatigue point of view. If they take it too lightly then they could be left with egg on their face, just rewind to the 2016 Copa in the United States where Verde-Amarela didn't even make it out of the group as Peru and Ecuador ousted them. That was from a post World Cup malaise though and they're a completely different team under the watchful eye of the intelligent Tite, they need to rise to the pressure from the fans expectations and that could be what defines them. Not only do they have to be strong tactically and physically but mentally they have to be right on it.
Peru – 25/1 (Betfair)
Peru are a team that certainly interest me, I fancied them to do well at the World Cup and they were an entertaining watch. I felt Los Incas we're unlucky to not get out of their group with Denmark just pipping them to second spot.
I'm a fan of their coach Ricardo Garreca, he sets his side out to move the ball quickly and be direct with their running. One feature of their play in Russia was their energetic full-backs bombing forward. Luis Advincula was especially impressive at right-back, I'm surprised he only got a move to lowly La Liga side Rayo Vallecano.
At the other end of the pitch they have their captain, talisman and all time leading goalscorer, 35 year old Paolo Guerrero leading the line. Behind him they have the dangerous Cristian Cueva, an excellent dribbler and he loves to get shots off. Jefferson Farfan is another notable name in the 23 man squad, he's still performing with Lokomotiv Moscow and with experience he brings additional leadership qualities and nouse.
Renato Tapia provides height, balance and physicality in central midfield and the Willem II man gives license for the likes of the pacey Andre Carrillo, Cueva and Farfan to aid the striker whether that be Guerrero or Raul Ruidiaz who's had a good start to the season with Seattle Sounders in the MLS.
Peru haven't won the Copa since 1975 and their odds suggest they're once again outsiders. However they did win bronze in 2011 and 2015 so they could give you a run for your money as an outside bet each way at 25/1 if you like to go off past efforts.
Bolivia – 75/1 (Betfair)
Despite their lack of well known players, Bolivia have made their mark on the continent in recent years. They're the strongest at their La Paz base, in fact they have such an advantage when playing hosts that seems to pass many by.
In the Miraflores area of the capital sits their national stadium, the Stadio Hernando Siles which is 12,000 feet above sea level. With the large majority of their players plying their trade in the domestic Apertura they're extremely well versed in competing in extreme altitudes. Opposition often find it hard to draw on energy reserves when visiting Bolivia therefore making it much more in the hosts' favour.
Looking simply at their home record they're unbeaten in 7, a run that included wins over Argentina, Chile and Paraguay as well as holding Brazil to a 0-0 draw. Unfortunately for La Verde, this tournament will not be played at such high altitudes and when they don't have home advantage they do struggle.
Since May 2007 they've won just 3 of 66 games on the road, a record that could easily rank as one of the worst in the history of international football. They desperately lack regular goalscorers and many of their defeats have been ‘to nil' so match by match that market could be a way to eek out a bit more value when opposing the Bolivians.
They're 75/1 quotes for a reason and their huge advantage doesn't apply here so I'd struggle to see them doing any serious damage, I certainly don't think they boast anywhere near the quality of squad that the other three teams in group A possess.
Venezuela – 40/1 (William Hill)
Venezuela are another side that have a relatively unknown squad to the average punter. La Vinotinto have never reached a final of a Copa, the best they've mustered was a respectable 4th place back in 2011 in Argentina.
Notable names for them including captain Tomas Rincon who's had spells in Turin with Juventus and currently Torino, as well as times at Genoa and Hamburg prior to that. He scans the back four and offers tenacity and leadership in a vital part of the pitch. Young goalkeeper and football manager hero Wulker Farinez has been linked with Barcelona of late, he's currently playing for Millionaros in their native league and will be looking to show what he is about on the big stage.
Up front they have two strikers who have been impressive in recent years. English fans will be more than aware of Salomon Rondon who was a big threat for Newcastle this season. His physicality and power regularly unsettles opposition defences and his unselfish nature allows other attackers greater space as his size naturally draws a number of defenders towards him.
His strike partner recently broke the MLS season-long top goalscorer record. Josef Martinez bagged a mammoth 35 goals in 39 games for Atlanta United which went a large way to securing the title for ATL and an additional personal accolade with the leagues MVP trophy also going to the 26 year old. He likes to play on the shoulder of defences and you'd presume he will be trying to time his runs to get on the end of Rondon's flick ons. Once he's through he's got plenty of pace about him as well as a razor sharp finishing ability. He will be one to watch.
It's all about how this side perform defensively, they should score a decent amount but there's not a great deal to say about their backline. It looks like they'll be fighting it out with Peru for second place and their meeting on opening day will go a long way to deciding who gets through to the knockout stages.
- 1 – Brazil
- 2 – Venezuela
- 3 – Peru
- 4 – Bolivia