The 47th Copa America kicks off on Sunday 13th June when joint hosts Argentina face Chile in a mouth-watering curtain raiser.
Holders Brazil won their ninth Copa America in 2019 with a 3-1 victory over Peru, and they will the team everyone will have their eyes on, and if the tournament goes with the favourites we’ll be watching a Brazil vs Argentina final on the 10th July. But there are other teams who will have plenty to say when some of the world’s best players come face to face.
This edition of the Copa was scheduled for 2020 and included Australia and Qatar, but the tournament was delayed by the outbreak of COVID 19 and the two overseas nations have withdrawn, leaving two groups of five. The early Copa America 2021 betting odds have Brazil as favourites to win the North Zone, which also contains Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. In the South Zone Argentina are backed to top a group which involves Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Only the bottom sides will be eliminated with the other eight nations proceeding to the next stage. And when we get to the business end, Uruguay with the legendary strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, will be there or thereabouts; while Colombia and Chile could also go deep into the competition. But as 2019 finalists Peru will testify, a lot of spirit and passion can get you a long way in the Copa America.
Headaches for the hosts
This is the first time since 1983 that the Copa has been hosted by two nations, and both Argentina and Colombia have their problems in the run up to the tournament. Argentina President Alberto Fernandez has said his country is ready to host, despite the COVID pandemic which has killed over 70,000 citizens and is still rampant, with 28,000 new cases reported yesterday.
The virus is ravaging the continent, but there is even more to worry about in Colombia, a country in the midst of a sequence of anti-government protests.
But once the pre-tournament worries have been allayed the Copa America 2021 results will hopefully take centre stage and will be particularly important for Argentina skipper Lionel Messi, who is hungry for success after his side, Barcelona, suffered a flop of a domestic season. They went out of the Champions League at an early stage and have the dubious pleasure of watching the Madrid clubs fight it out for La Liga. The Blaugrana missed a big chance in a recent clash with Atletico and despite Messi top scoring in La Liga, with 30 goals, the Catalans have fallen off the pace.
Argentina will be without two Bayer Leverkusen players, Lucas Alario and Exequiel Palacios, who are injured, but they have a big pool of attacking players to choose alongside Messi, with Manchester City’s record breaking striker, Sergio Aguero, in strong contention.
Players to watch out for
Real Madrid midfield star Casemiro is likely to add to his 48 caps and play a big role in Brazil’s midfield, but his young team-mate Vinicius Junior is a player we’ll be keeping an eye on. The 20 year old winger is homing in on 100 appearances for Real, and despite Los Blancos going out of the Champions League in a semi-final against Chelsea it’s been a good season for Zinedine Zidane’s team and the boss has relied heavily on Vinicius, a speedy player with an eye for goal.
Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez has had an outstanding season with Serie A champions Inter Milan, with 16 goals and five assists, as Antonio Conte’s side romped to the Scudetto. Still only 23 years old Martinez has 11 goals in 21 games for Argentina and he’ll be pushing for a start.
Everton midfielder James Rodriguez is by far Colombia’s best player and he has the ability to win a game with a moment of genius. He made a fantastic start in the Premier League as the Toffees led the league, and his injury coincided with Everton’s’ slide down the table. But he’s fit again and raring to go.
World Cup 2022 qualifiers
In the run-up to the Copa America the South American teams have World Cup qualifiers on the agenda, at the beginning of June over the next two weeks, and the big guns are in action. On June 4th Brazil are at home to Ecuador and at SBOTOP odds of 1.30 the Selecao are heavily fancied to win. But the big match of the opening round is in Argentina where Messi and co host Chile, their opening opponents in the Copa a week later. Lionel Scaloni’s team are at 1.64 to win that game, and set down a marker.
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