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Away from the glare of the European Championship qualifiers, there are some tasty international friendlies taking place all over the world throughout the day on Saturday. The two that catch the eye most are the Saturday night games involving Brazil and recently crowned Copa America champions, Chile. Brazil play away in Costa Rica, looking to get back on track after a disappointing summer, while Chile play in front of their own fans for the first time since their historic triumph, when they welcome Paraguay.
Costa Rica v Brazil
It was a hugely disappointing Copa America for Dunga’s Brazil side as they were knocked out on penalties by Paraguay at the quarter-final stage. That was after a 1-0 group defeat to Colombia, and off the back of their humiliating World Cup on home soil last year. Standards and expectations are ridiculously high in Brazil when it comes to the national side, and they will be expected to fare much better when they start their World Cup qualifying campaign next month. Before that they face friendly games against USA and Costa Rica, and they will be expected to win both.
Brazil are -210 with Bwin to win in Costa Rica, and it’s a price worth taking for what should be a routine win.
Reports from Brazil suggest that Neymar has suffered discomfort in training, and Dunga looks set to hand his left-hand side starting berth to Bayern Munich new-boy, Douglas Costa. The young star has had an excellent start to his career in Germany after making the switch from Shakhtar Donetsk, and is relishing the opportunity to fight for a place in the starting line up.
For Costa Rica it’s been a tough year since the heroics of the World Cup, which saw them eventually bow out to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. They haven’t won in ten matches, and drew all four games at the recent Gold Cup, going out to Mexico after extra time in the quarter-finals. They have been surrounded by controversy in the build-up to this game, as former coach Paulo Wanchope left his position as coach after a bizarre touchline bust up with a fan in the Olympic qualifier with Panama. The fracas was caused by an attempt to prevent Wanchope entering the field of play, which resulted in an ugly brawl and ultimately ended Wanchope’s reign as manager. Oscar Ramirez has been appointed as his replacement, and will take charge for the first time against Brazil.
Brazil won 11 consecutive games after the World Cup, before the Colombia and Paraguay defeats at the Copa America, and they are usually ultra-reliable in this type of game. They’ve won on their last two visits to Costa Rica, and are taking on a side in poor form with a new coach at the helm. This should be every inch a routine win for Brazil, and they should make Saturday night a happy hunting ground for punters.
Chile v Paraguay
Paraguay seemingly performed well at the Copa America, but their success was built on a remarkably solid defence rather than any expansive football. They fought back from 2-0 down against an Argentina side who had taken their foot off the gas to earn an unlikely 2-2 draw in the first group game, before beating Jamaica 1-0 in the next match. They qualified after holding Uruguay to a 1-1 draw, and frustrated Brazil in the same manner to come through after penalties. Their limitations were ruthlessly exposed by Argentina in the semi-finals however, where they were beaten 6-1, and they went on to lose the 3rd place play-off 2-0 to Peru. They are yet to play a game since that tournament, but will be facing the champions here in their own back yard.
Chile created history this summer, winning the Copa America for the first time in their history, by beating Argentina on penalties after a 0-0 draw. It was all the sweeter as the tournament was held in Chile, and they will be welcomed as returning heroes when they take to the field on Saturday night. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez hit the winning penalty as Argentina missed all but one, with Messi the only player able to convert in reply. It was Chile’s first win over their rivals in a major competition ever, which highlights the level of the achievement.
They will be without Artur Vidal, who has been released from the squad for personal reasons, and are also missing Claudio Bravo, Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz. They can still count on the likes of Sanchez, Fernandez, Medel, and Isla though, and will field a strong side. There is bound to be a celebratory mood in the stadium, and Chile’s attacking style works best with a vociferous crowd behind them. They are on a run of seven games without defeat – having won 5 and drawn 2 – and they’ve also won four of the last five home games against Paraguay, although you have to go back as far as 2011 for the most recent meeting. Amazingly, they’ve only been beaten once in the last 25 home games – a run which stretches back to January 2013.
Paraguay’s away record makes for grim reading, and they’ve only won once away in the last 20 games. That was a 2-1 victory in Cameroon, but other than that they’ve lost 11 and drawn 8 of the other 19 road trips going back to June 2012.
With the whole country of Chile in jubilant mood, there is value in backing the home side at odds just under evens. They are formidable at home, and Paraguay don’t appear to have the necessary quality – particularly on their travels – to prevent a home win and yet another reason for Chile to celebrate.
Brazil to beat Costa Rica
Saturday 5th September 21:00 GMT
Chile to beat Paraguay
Saturday 5th September 22:00 GMT
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