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The Copa America has brought great entertainment, with some 57 goals spread across the 24 matches so far. It’s fitting then that the two top scoring teams – Chile and Argentina – should make the final on Saturday night, and it is a mouth-watering clash. The game will be held at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, and although Chile will be well-supported on home ground, Argentina look dangerous after destroying Paraguay in the semi-final.
Road to the Final
It was against Paraguay that Argentina started their Copa America campaign, and it was an unconvincing start as they let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2. They showed their class in the next two group games though, beating Uruguay and Jamaica by a goal each to top group B. They were taken to penalties by a dogged, and somewhat fortunate Colombia side in the quarter-final; but they made no mistakes in the semi-final, trouncing Paraguay 6-1 to book a place in their second major final in the space of a year.
Chile have been equally impressive, and they were our pre-tournament tip to lift the trophy on home soil. If you took a little of the +600 that was on offer at the time, you should be sitting pretty now, with an option to trade out before or during the game if need be.
Chile started their road to the final with a 2-0 win over Ecuador in the tournament curtain-raiser, before being held to a 3-3 draw with Mexico. They continued their prolific scoring with a 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia, before a fiery 1-0 win over Uruguay in the quarter-final. A 2-1 victory over Peru in the semi-final has brought them to the final in front of their own fans, and the whole country feels that Chile is destined to win its first Copa America.
Chile – +280 with Bet365
Chile have reached the final on two occasions before – losing to Paraguay in 1979 and to Uruguay in 1987. Compared with Argentina’s record of 14 Copa America titles, it’s clear which team has the most experience. Argentina’s ‘golden generation’ are yet to win a senior competition, and they were beaten World Cup finalists just last year. They will feel it is their time to fulfill some of their potential, and they can point to a favourable head-to-head record against the hosts.
Chile have never beaten Argentina in a Copa America, drawing 5 and losing 19 of the 26 meetings. They’ve lost nine of the last ten Copa America meetings and have failed to score a single goal in the last six. Argentina have also only lost once in their last 19 Copa America games, which was the final defeat to Brazil in 2007; they’ve only ever been knocked out on penalties since.
Despite the awful record against Argentina, Chile can take solace in the fact that they’ve only lost once in nine Copa America games that they’ve played as hosts, and they’ve also scored in each of their last ten Copa matches. The local support has galvanized the squad, and they will not feel intimidated by Argentina’s superior record.
It’s also worth pointing out that Argentina’s last Copa success was more than 20 years ago, so the current squad of players don’t have that all-important experience of winning it. Chile will fight tooth and nail to stay in this game, and a draw in ninety minutes would be no surprise.
Players to Watch
Argentina’s squad is so blessed with talent, that you could name almost any player to watch, but the stand out will always be Messi. His sublime skill has graced the National side and the Barcelona team for many years, and he is the fulcrum of this team. If there has been one minor criticism of Messi in the past it has been over his performances in international tournaments. He silenced his doubters with a brilliant World Cup last year, but there are still those that will say he is unproven on the international stage until he has won a trophy. There will be few players with more of a desire to make an impact on this match, and Messi is a tempting price to notch the first goal of the evening.
With two such attacking teams it seems unlikely that there will be no goals, but there is always the danger that it turns into a tight, cagey affair. With so much at stake neither side will want to leave any gaps or make any mistakes, but both teams have conceded in half of their last ten matches, and both are better going forward.
If Messi doesn’t take up the mantle, Argentina have plenty of other players who can step up to the plate. Di Maria, Higuain, Tevez, Pastore and Aguero have all had a part to play in the competition, and it is an awe-inspiring forward line.
Chile have plenty of quality running through their side too, with players from several top clubs within their ranks. Arsenal’s Alexi Sanchez and Juventus’ Arturo Vidal are the two headliners in the team, but they can also boast the talents of Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and Inter’s Gary Medel. Of those players, Sanchez is the one that the country will be looking to when goal scoring chances present themselves, and he will need to be at his clinical best as chances will be at a premium. If Chile take the lead it would be no shock to see Sanchez wheeling away celebrating, but the odds on Messi – the big game player – are too good to resist.
Copa America Final, Saturday 4th July, 9:00pm (BST)
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