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Euro 2016 isn’t the only top international tournament to be played in June, and on US soil there will be the Copa America Centenario from the 3rd of the month. This year’s competition has been expanded to 16 teams from the usual 12 to mark the centenary of CONMEBOL and the Copa America, so it promises to be a riveting tournament.
The clash with the Olympics being held in Brazil will have a big effect on this competition as national sides juggle their squads depending on priorities, and the absence of Neymar from the Brazil squad suggests that the Selecao have earmarked an Olympic win on home soil.
Chile won the competition last year when it was held in their country, and host nations do tend to have a good record, but the USA will have their work cut out to make an impact on their own tournament – the first time it has been held outside of South America.
Chile beat Argentina on penalties in the final last year, the second time in two years the Argentines missed out in the final after losing to Germany at the last hurdle in the 2014 World Cup. Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the best player in world football at the moment, but he is yet to win international honours with his country and there may not be a better opportunity than the one presented here.
Group A: United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay
Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru
Group C: Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica, Venezuela
Group D: Argentina, Chile, Panama, Bolivia
Argentina are priced at +200 with Paddy Power, and although they are clear favourites they are worth backing to end their 13-year Copa America drought.
The top two teams in each group will progress to the quarter finals, with Argentina and Brazil able to avoid each other until the final if they both win their respective groups. United States will be expecting big things on home soil, but they fluffed their lines in last year’s Gold Cup which was also held in the US, finishing only fourth. They have a tough group with Colombia, Costa Rica and even Paraguay all capable of taking points off each other and a semi final place would probably be seen as a good result for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.
Brazil look to have a fairly serene route to the quarter finals and it would be a surprise if they failed to top a group consisting of Ecuador, Haiti and Peru, with Ecuador likely to pose the biggest danger. Peru (along with Paraguay) were surprise semi finalists in the 2015 Copa America, but whether they can repeat that feat remains to be seen.
Mexico and Uruguay will battle it out for top spot in group C, although the latter are still sweating over the fitness of talisman Luis Suarez. Mexico prioritised the Gold Cup last year, a policy which paid dividends as they took the trophy, and after a good start to World Cup qualifiers both of these sides have good outside chances of winning this competition.
Argentina look to have safe passage to the quarter finals, with current Copa America champions Chile offering the biggest threat. Argentina gained revenge for last year’s final defeat by beating Chile 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier in March, and on neutral soil they are fancied to get the better of their chief rival in group D. Panama and Bolivia should pose few problems to a squad which boasts Messi, Higuain, Aguero and Di Maria.
With Brazil mixing up their squad to have a tilt at the Olympics, Uruguay having doubts over Suarez, and the likes of Chile and Colombia not in outstanding form, the way is open for Argentina and Messi to win a trophy that their talents deserve.
The top scorer market is also indicative of Argentina’s superiority, with the top three in the market all hailing from the Argentine squad. Messi is listed as +500 favourite, followed by Aguero at +800 , but Gonzalo Higuain stands out at +1000 with SkyBet
The Napoli striker has had the season of his life winning the golden boot in Italy after notching a highly-impressive 36 league goals, equalling an 87-year old record for most league goals in a season. He should arrive at the Copa America brimful of confidence as the rumours of a big-money summer move to the Premier League surround him.
Assuming that Argentina go deep into the tournament there should be plenty of opportunities for Aguero, Di Maria, Messi and Higuain to work their magic, but it’s the striker’s clinical finishing ability that could see him come out on top in this particular race.
Argentina to win the Copa America
3rd – 26th June, 2016
Gonzalo Higuain to be Copa America Top Scorer
3rd – 26th June, 2016
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