Two international tournaments have been in full swing alongside each other over the last couple of weeks, but the Copa America finishes this weekend with a repeat of last year’s final as Argentina take on Chile. It was the Chileans who won out last time on home soil, eventually ousting Argentina on penalties, but there are plenty of good reasons to suspect the roles could be reversed when the two take to the field on Sunday night/Monday morning.
The night before will see the two losing semi-finalists – USA and Colombia – do battle for third place as they look to finish creditable campaigns with a sense of pride.
When any major competition reaches the last four one expects tight, tactical games where nothing is given away. The two Copa America semi finals could hardly have been more contradictory with Argentina beating USA by a resounding four goals to nil, and Chile racing into what proved to be an unassailable two-goal lead within 11 minutes against Colombia.
We’ve been banging on about Argentina’s chances of winning the centenary edition of the Copa America and Messi’s chances of taking most valuable player, and nothing since the start of the competition has changed our minds. They were in charge against the USA within three minutes after Lavezzi’s opener, and when Messi added a second with a superb free kick on 32 minutes the result never looked in doubt. Higuain added a couple of goals in the second half to put a gloss on the scoreline, and the Argentine juggernaut keeps on rolling.
Chile faced what on paper looked a tough assignment against Colombia in the other semi-final, but two tap-ins from close range in the opening 11 minutes quickly put the game to bed. Colombia could find no response and when Sanchez was given his marching orders on 57 minutes the game was effectively over as a contest. What was most interesting about the game was that it took over four hours to complete after torrential rain hit the stadium at the half-time mark. A delay of two hours and 25 minutes ensued as supporters took refuge inside the stadium. When the rain eventually gave way, ground staff were able to clear the excess water from the pitch and the final 45 minutes could be played.
Argentina v Chile
Chile hosted the competition in 2015 and won it for the first time in front of their own fans with a 4-1 penalty shoot-out win after a drab 0-0 draw with Argentina. The sides have met twice since then – once in World Cup qualifying in March and once in the group stages of this very tournament. Argentina won 2-1 on both occasions and in their current mood will fancy their chances of making it three out of three.
They are on a run of nine straight victories, five of which have been in the Copa America, and the performances have been largely faultless. They got the better of Chile, Panama and Bolivia in the group stage, before beating Venezuela and USA in the quarters and semis respectively, scoring four goals in each game.
After losing the first group match to Argentina, Chile beat Panama and Bolivia to qualify in second before thumping Mexico 7-0 in that historic quarter final. The win over Colombia and a second successive Copa America final appearance marks them out as one of the top sides in South America, but Argentina are a class above everyone at the moment especially with Messi in such excellent form.
USA v Colombia
In the third place play-off which takes place on the previous night, USA are worth a small punt at +200 with Betfred, Paddy Power and Totesport to beat Colombia on the basis that they will have more motivation to win.
Prior to the tournament Jurgen Klinsmann earmarked a semi-final spot at least for USA and his side duly achieved it. There is no shame at all in going out to Argentina in the last four and they will consider it a (relatively) successful competition so far. On home soil and with the backing of a vocal crowd they are expected to be wound up to finish off in style with a win and claim 3rd spot.
Colombia would have fancied their chances of beating Chile and getting to the final, so their last four defeat will have hurt much more, and one wonders how much motivation they will have for a third place play-off. Traditionally these games are difficult for players to play in having just suffered the pain of semi-final defeat, but these sides are at different standings in the world game and for USA there should be much more motivation to win.
The Americans also have a score to settle from the very first game of the tournament, when they lost 2-0 to this Colombia side in the first pool A game. Zapata opened the scoring when he converted a corner, and James Rodriguez’ penalty late in the first half was enough to put the game to bed. USA pressed in the second period and had a Cameron chance cleared off the line but they couldn’t find a route back into the game. For the reasons stated above, this particular contest could turn out rather differently and USA are worth a small investment at a very palatable price of +200 .
Argentina to beat Chile
Monday 27th June, 01:00 GMT
USA to beat Colombia
Sunday 26th June, 01:00 GMT
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