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While the European Championships are going on in France, there’s another huge international tournament in the USA as the Copa America Centenario is drawing to a close. The two semi finals will be played over Tuesday and Wednesday, and if they follow the theme of the tournament so far we should be in for a treat.
The centenary celebration of the famous competition saw the line up extended to 16 teams for a special edition of the Copa America which has been held on US soil. The two big early shocks were Brazil and Uruguay, two sides with great international pedigree who were both knocked out at the group stage. The likes of Ecuador and Venezuela were the beneficiaries, reaching the quarter final stage, but neither made it past that point to the last four. Ecuador were dealt a tough hand against the host nation in the quarters and duly went down 2-1, while Venezuela were no match for an Argentina side which has breezed through the competition, and they were trounced 4-1.
After qualifying alongside the USA, Colombia were drawn against group B winners Peru, and after a tense 0-0 draw they prevailed on penalty kicks. The last quarter final between Mexico and Chile was set up as an equally tight affair, but Chile made a mockery of pre-match standings to thrash the Mexicans 7-0.
It’s the first semi final that we’re concentrating on here though, with the USA up against tournament favourites Argentina.
It says a great deal about the player that in his first start he scored his fourth goal of the competition and contributed two assists to help his side to the 4-1 rout of Venezuela. He equalled Batistuta’s record of 54 goals for Argentina, and one more will see the Barcelona ace become his country’s top goal scorer of all time.
We highlighted both Messi’s chance of receiving player of the tournament and Argentina’s chances of winning it before the competition began, and both ante-post bets look particularly strong at this stage.
It makes perfect sense to back him to get on the scoresheet as this is the best opportunity he has had yet to lead his country to international honours. It has always been a criticism of both Messi and Ronaldo that they haven’t ‘done it’ on the international stage, but while Cristiano is stuttering in France at Euro 2016, Messi is lighting up the Copa America with his dazzling displays. Of course, he is helped by having a quality side around him with Higuian, Di Maria, and Aguero to name just a few of the star names in the Argentina squad.
However, there can be no doubt who the talisman of this squad is, and he is worth a punt to net his fifth goal of the tournament and write his name into the record books once again.
It’s a tough ask for the USA to get anything from this match, even if they are on home soil, and Argentina can be backed on the straight win market at -189 with Coral
A semi final slot was earmarked by Jurgen Klinsmann before the tournament, and the US can be pleased with their performances so far. They topped pool A ahead of Colombia and beat Ecuador 2-1 in the quarter finals, leading 2-0 through Dempsey and Zardes before Arroyo’s consolation for Ecuador. There will be no shame in being eliminated at this stage by arguably the best team in the world, and although they will approach the game with nothing to lose, one expects them to be on the losing side after 90 minutes.
USA’s qualities are in their attacking play rather than their defensive play, but with the quality at Argentina’s disposal they are expected to dominate the ball and the US will inevitably spend much of the game on the back foot. After final defeats in the World Cup 2014 and the Copa America 2015, Argentina will be in no mood to take risks and will see this as their best opportunity to finally win an international tournament with Messi. Colombia or Chile will await in the final, and we fully expect Argentina to be lining up in Sunday’s showpiece.
Argentina to beat USA
Wednesday 22nd June, 02:00 GMT
Lionel Messi to Score at Any Time
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