Chile have been the best team so far in Copa America but are still second favourites behind Argentina in the latest futures betting. Brazil have drifted in the betting partly due to the fact Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament. His absence from the latter stages of the World Cup last year severely compromised Brazil’s chances of winning their own festival of soccer and something similar could happen again.
Knockout Stages of Copa America
We have now reached the knockout stages of the national championship of South America. The imbalance of any tournament involving 12 or 24 teams leads to third placed teams qualifying from the groups. Two thirds of the matches in the whole tournament have been played in order to eliminate just one third of the teams. Four ties in the quarter finals are being played on successive nights from Wednesday.
The Copa America is the equivalent of the European Championships in Europe but identifies the best team in South America. Indeed the tournament was called the South American Championship before being rebranded as the Copa America in 1975. Chile are the hosts for this year’s renewal and 12 teams competed in three groups of four teams. The top two teams from each group progressed to the last eight but the best third-place teams also moved forward.
Best Team in the Group Phase
Chile were excellent in their last group match, beating Bolivia 5-0 and they now have the momentum to win Copa America for the first time. They play Uruguay in the last eight and have a great opportunity to make the final as Brazil and Argentina are in the opposite side of the draw. Chile are shorter than evens to beat a Uruguay, a side that have looked ineffectual without Luis Suarez. They qualified as a best third placed team but scored just twice in three group matches.
Chile have scored 10 goals in winning their section and have conceded three. The next highest scoring teams found the net just four times and four teams let in fewer goals. The hosts combine attacking flair with a solid defence and that is a good combination in the context of tournaments that can involve six matches in three weeks. Chile are one of just three teams to be unbeaten after the group stage and only Argentina accumulated as many points.
Brazil Are Friendless
Punters have been deserting Brazil even though they won their group. The loss of the suspended Neymar is a significant blow, especially bearing in mind how the side reacted to his injury that meant he missed the World Cup semi-finals. Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at that stage and the outcome represented one of the most amazing results in the history of international football. The Brazilians meet Paraguay in the final last eight match on Saturday.
There is no extra-time in the quarters and semis. Matches level after 90 minutes will go straight to a penalty shoot-out but the final will involve 30 more minutes if there is a stalemate in normal time. Five of the 18 group matches were drawn of which only two were goalless. Both teams scored in seven of the first phase fixtures and there were more than two goals in seven of these opening round contests. Four games produced four or more goals. The 3-3 draw between Chile and Mexico is the highest scoring match in the tournament to date.
Tournament Top Scorer
Chile have never been champions of South America but been runners-up four times in the continent’s championships though not since 1987 before Alexis Sanchez was born. The Arsenal striker has scored 27 goals for Chile in 83 matches which is not an outstanding average. Chile have been given an easy route to the final and Sanchez could score enough times to be top marksmen and lead the hosts to the title. He is already a national hero but the adulation would increase by many times if he helped his country win Copa America.
However, Lionel Messi will have his say with regards who wins Copa America. . He is the best player in the world and some pundits are saying he is the best footballer ever. His goal scoring record for Barcelona is phenomenal but his return for Argentina is more modest. Despite not putting in an outstanding performance Messi was voted the best player at the World Cup. Maradona won the 1986 tournament with the national team but never played in a Copa America winning side.
Brazil could be heading for more disappointment and soul searching. They hosted the World Cup this time last year when Neymar was asked to score the goals to unite a divided nation. There was an outcry about the vast amount of money spent on the tournament and basic services suffered. Demonstrations on the streets preceded the fixtures but many Brazilians forget the politics and got behind their team in their matches. There was widespread mourning after the humiliation of losing to Germany 7-1 in the semi-finals. Not winning Copa America would add insult to injury.
Chile and Sanchez Combination
The form and betting suggest Chile will play Argentina or Brazil in the final of this year’s Copa America. The champions of South America will probably have the tournament top scorer in their side and with Neymar absent that comes down to Sergio Aguero, Arturo Vidal, Messi or Sanchez. Vidal has scored three goals, Aguero two while the other pair have notched just once. Four goals could win this market so a goal a game would be enough for Sanchez or Messi if their country reached the final or semis as long as Vidal did not add to his tally. Chile to win Copa America and Sanchez to top score is a perfectly feasible scenario.
European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
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