Lionel Messi’s wait to experience a senior international tournament victory with Argentina is likely to end this month because the Copa America Centenario in the United States of America is there for the taking of his team.
Messi was a key member of Argentina’s 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship-winning side and he collected a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. But arguably the greatest footballer of his generation has not celebrated a senior title with Argentina, with the White and Sky Blues ending three major events in second place, including last year’s Copa America that Chile won in its own backyard.
According to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Argentina is the best national team on the planet and the World Football Elo Ratings concur that the White and Sky Blues are the side to which every other side must aspire. Argentina is miles clear of Belgium in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and it is comfortably ahead of Germany in the World Football Elo Ratings. Argentina deserves to be the warm Copa America Centenario favourite at odds of +200 with Paddy Power.
Argentina is in the same Copa America Centenario group as Bolivia, Chile and Panama. Both the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and the World Football Elo Ratings believe that Bolivia is CONMEBOL’s weakest team and the Greens tend to struggle away from their high-altitude stadia. Chile has gone backwards since taking out the 2015 Copa America, including losing 1-2 at home to Argentina three months ago. And Panama failed to win any of its six matches at last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in spite of finishing third.
The betting knockers of Argentina point to its Copa America Centenario travel schedule, which one acknowledges is far from ideal. However, Argentina has a superb Copa America Centenario draw in terms of opponents, especially if it secures first place in Group D and the other pools go to form. Argentina may find itself in a position to rest some of its star players during the Copa America Centenario.
At least the Copa America Centenario is Argentina’s primary target in the next few months. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games football competition is what interests Brazil most and its most influential player, Neymar, will feature in it rather than the Copa America Centenario. One has touched upon the poor fortunes of Chile already and the general Copa America Centenario fourth favourite is the United States of America, which the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and the World Football Elo Ratings lists ninth and 10th respectively.
Uruguay will have its Copa America Centenario supporters at double-digit odds but it is more reliant on one player – Luis Suarez – than any other side in the tournament. And Suarez will enter the Copa America Centenario under an injury cloud so he may not produce his scintillating best.
In Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Messi have three of European club football’s most prolific goal scorers, men capable of turning games on their heads in an instant. With Brazil not selecting their strongest possible squad – for example, 34-year-old Kaka will wear its number seven shirt, the Copa America Centenario should be Argentina’s to lose.
Uruguay, which is trading at odds of +1100 with Marathonbet, is the most appealing Copa America Centenario alternative to Argentina because its roster features Atletico Madrid centre half Diego Godin, Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani and Suarez but one cannot headline Oscar Tabarez’s team because its chance may live and die with its biggest name.
The Copa America Centenario will kick off on Friday 3 June when the United States of America plays Colombia in Santa Clara. The Copa America Centenario final will take place on Sunday 26 June in East Rutherford, close to New York City.
Argentina to win the Copa America
3rd – 26th June, 2016