In the second of a three-part series, football expert Tom Love (@TomLove_18) assesses this summer’s Copa America tournament with a specific focus on Group C that includes Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Japan.
2019 Copa America Group C Betting Preview, Odds & Tips
Uruguay – 7/1 (Ladbrokes)
Record 15 time Copa America winners Uruguay are rated as third favourites behind Brazil and Argentina to lift this years trophy. It's easy to see why, they look to have a solid spine about their team and an extremely experienced manager in Oscar Tabarez.
At the back you have Atletíco Madrid pair Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. As a partnership they've kept plenty of clean sheets at domestic level and know each other's game inside out, it's arguably the strongest centre half duo in the tournament. Both showed they were a goal threat too from set pieces last summer.
I'd expect La Celeste to operate with a narrow midfield as they lack wingers but are stacked with highly rated central midfielders. Arsenal's Lucas Torreira, Juventus' Rodrigo Bentancur, Inter's Matias Vecino, Real Madrid's Fede Valverde and Boca Juniors' Nahitan Nandez are all excellent options in the middle of the park. The majority of which came through the strong youth teams from 4 or 5 years ago. It's a midfield full of running, tenacity and quality and expect them to try overrun teams in the engine room.
Up front Tabarez has four excellent options, namely Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani who are likely to be partnered together. However he has more physical options in Celta Vigo's wantaway frontman Maxi Gomez and Girona's top scorer Christian Stuani. It's a very strong array of options.
If they are lacking anywhere it's on the flanks. 33 year old Martin Caceres is a centre half by trade but is likely to slot in at right back. Diego Laxalt is a capable left back but probably more happy playing as a wing back. If they had a natural attacking right back then they could suit a 5-3-2 formation so it will be interesting if Tabarez takes that approach and plays someone out of position.
They look to have one of the strongest spines, if not the strongest, in the competition. They're probably the most settled side out of the 12 too, you seldom find a settled South American side due to problems with national federations and high manager turnover. That should be of benefit to them. They also have a group where they could easily win all three games, there's no minnows but they're all negotiable ties.
Chile – 14/1 (Betway)
Chile will be hoping to defend their Copa America title as they come into the 2019 version. However, many will argue that their golden generation have had their time. Not many players are coming up to replace the ageing squad.
Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara and Eduardo Vargas are all at least 29 now and possibly past their peak. It doesn't help that Chile have played in summer competitions for most years in the last decade and it seemed to have caught up with them in the last two or three years as they failed to reach the 2018 World Cup. It's a tired side and it's led to a pessimistic vibe around the country coming into this tournament.
There are a few newer names that are making a name for themselves though in Alaves defender Guillermo Maripan and Bologna midfielder Erick Pulgar. The former has plenty of suitors this off season after some sturdy defensive performances for El Glorioso, he's tall, can play out from the back too and regularly wins his duels. The latter has had an excellent 2019 with the Rossoblu and has greatly benefitted from Sinisa Mihajlovic's enterprising, attacking approach. He's an all action midfielder who is a good age at 25, I'm sure he will be a key player for La Roja this summer.
Chile too have a new manager, gone are the days of the enigmatic Jorge Sampaoli, the current gaffer is former Colombia and Ecuador manager Reinaldo Riera. He's only had friendlies and it could be a long term project for him to try develop some of the young players ready to step up to replace the familiar ageing names. They don't look ripe to attack this tournament as they have in the past, it would be a remarkable achievement to win the Copa three years on the bounce but it doesn't look too likely.
Ecuador – 50/1 (Paddy Power)
Ecuador manager Hernan Gomez has openly admitted that this competition is not a vital one for his side. Instead his raw focus is on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. It's a strange thought process given that is three years away but each to their own I suppose.
Those words instantly put me off backing La Tricolor to cause major damage in Brazil this summer. Another reason to swerve them is their questionable away form, they haven't won a game on the road since 2015 and that's certainly cause for concern.
They do have players who can mix it though. Ex West Ham striker Enner Valencia is a threat with his pace and ferocious shot, his namesake Antonio Valencia is still in the squad too and he brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the squad. Apart from those two you are struggling for any standout performers.
What's more, Ecuador have failed to compete in the latter stages of the Copa for a good 25 years now. Their focus is on developing some of their strong teenage talent ahead of World Cup qualifying and I'd be surprised if they cause a stir here.
Japan – 80/1 (Bet365)
Japan along with Qatar are the two guests at this years Copa. They've brought over a youthful squad to try boost their experience as it's a free hit for the Blue Samurai.
They did impress and surprise a few at the World Cup, we all remember that strong performance against Belgium. However, it's hard to know too much about the ability of this squad. Captain Shinji Okazaki is a familiar name and he always gives running power, nonstop work rate and clever movement in the box.
21 year old Hamburg forward Tatsuya Ito is one to watch too, he was nominated as rookie of the year in the 2018 Bundesliga season. He's small in stature but very good technically, however his goal record leaves a lot to be desired.
Japan could come out and play with freedom here and why not. With the Olympic Games being hosted in their homeland next year that could take priority and an early exit here wouldn't cause much uproar.
- 1 – Uruguay
- 2 – Chile
- 3 – Japan
- 4 – Ecuador
In my opinion this is a fantastic group to be in for La Celeste. On the face of it, it does look like quite a tight, even group but when you dig deeper and see the pessimism of Chile and Ecuador fans and the inexperience of Japan it should be one they finish top off.
Unfortunately there's a real dearth of special markets surrounding this Copa America which is very frustrating. If there was I'd be looking at them winning all three of their group games. They're simply better than the other three and have the best settled squad and way of playing in the competition.
I'm also happy to back them to win the tournament at a fair 7/1. I'd have them the same price as Argentina as I don't think there's much between them, in fact I'd goes as far as saying Uruguay have the better team.
Historically they love this competition, winning it more than any other South American side. They have a number of high profile players and the perfect mix of youth and experience. In a trappy looking tournament I think they have to be the standout value that you can put your faith in.