Every so often, my San Diego friends and I take the obligatory 5 or 15 minutes to complain about there being no Major League Soccer club in the Plymouth of the West.
San Diego is minutes from the USA-Mexico border. Kids walk around the beach with soccer balls instead of yo-yos and hacky-sacks. My housekeeper in San Diego runs her own soccer club in Tijuana – multiple soccer clubs in Tijuana in fact. There should be an MLS team based in San Diego.
Heck, my neighbors named their kid after Chucky Lozano. There should be a flippin’ pro soccer club in a city like that! Los Angeles gets to have 2 of them, we can’t have 1?
Lozano was actually the subject of a big blunder I made on the blog a few weeks back. I wrote that Chucky plies his professional trade in Mexico – yes, he plays for the Mexico National Team and is a hero to El Tricolor supporters in North America, but he plays for PSV Eindhoven in Denmark.
Part of the literal earthquake in Mexico City on June 17th, 2018 when Lozano scored to beat Germany in the World Cup had to do with the fact that seeing Chucky or any other football genius from Mexico playing with other Mexican footballers is relatively rare. It’s even more special when Mexico plays in CONCACAF tournaments and the Danish club standout returns to home turf in America.
Gamblers used to athletes going all-out “once in a while” in international events need to recalibrate themselves when it comes to soccer in the Americas.
Yes, an Olympic wrestler might take it easy in a match that occurs a month prior to the Summer Games.
But when European club players like Lionel Messi embark on an emotional trip across the Atlantic wear national colors, it’s not the Pan-American Games or the UEFA Nations League or any other 2nd-fiddle event you can think of. It’s the real deal.
Oh, and don’t think for a moment that a lack of World Cup success on behalf of the greater Western Hemisphere makes any of the 2019 Copa América teams “downtrodden” headed into one of the world’s most competitive tournaments.
Brazil is hosting a dozen national teams eager for victory, hoping to gain momentum headed into that next FIFA cycle.
Play begins this Friday evening in São Paulo as the hosts take on a challenge from Bolivia.
Copa América ’19: A Look at the Pre-Tournament Odds
Brazil is a heavy favorite to prevail in the final this year, and like any futures betting market around (Even) the short odds present a “where’s Waldo” situation in finding the best alternative.
Bettors aren’t often interested in underdog bets that don’t come with a nice payoff. Bovada Sportsbook is giving Brazil (+110) and Argentina (and Messi) a (+350) shot to qualify and win on July 7th in Rio de Janeiro. But there’s a bigger gap between top and 2nd place at another betting site.
MyBookie’s market on Argentina is longer at (+450), making the bookmaker an excellent place to start from when handicapping the best bets prior to – and after – Matchday 1.
Here’s a look at the upcoming event’s top 5 contenders…or at least the most-popular futures bets headed into the opening weekend of play.
Brazil ((+110) Odds-to-Win 2019 Copa América at MyBookie)
The host Brazilians look to break a snide of disappointment in the tournament, failing to advance past the quarterfinals in 3 previous outings. Prior to the slump, Seleção had earned 4 of the previous 5 Copa América championships in 1997, 1999, 2004, and 2007.
The rape accusations against star forward Neymar have become a dark cloud lingering over the squad heading into Copa América. The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been ruled out of the event with an ankle ligament injury, but that might be just as well if a nasty scandal could further erupt at any time.
With Neymar’s absence, more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus and Liverpool standout Roberto Firmino. The 22-year-old Jesus gets an opportunity to shine on the national stage after 3 strong seasons with Manchester City in which he scored nearly 30 goals in Premier League action.
Meanwhile, Firmino’s versatility and creativity to play as an attacking midfielder, forward, or winger has helped Liverpool soar to the top of the UEFA Champions League.
Brazil is rich with talent guarding the net as Alisson and Ederson topped the EPL in clean sheets during the 2018-2019 season.
Manager Tite took control of the squad in 2016 and prefers to utilize a 4-3-3 attacking system to take advantage of the skilled forwards at his disposal.
Forget what I said in the intro about every team coming-in with a head of steam.
Copa América has been nothing but heartbreak for Messi in recent years. Argentina has suffered defeat in the finals several times with the Atomic Flea leading the charge. A similar squad met with a similar fate at the 2014 World Cup.
Those outcomes help place Messi under excruciating pressure to finally lead Argentina to a meaningful championship. The 31-year-old Barcelona forward was in tip-top form throughout the season, posting 36 goals in 34 appearances in La Liga.
Don’t forget Sergio Agüero, another brilliant player in his own right who could help ease the goal-scoring burden. PSG midfielder Ángel Di María can play as a winger or attacking midfielder will provide support to the English club stars as a dribbler and playmaker in open space.
However, much of the lineup is rather inexperienced. Is that really a bad thing considering there are now less negative memories to inhabit the dressing room?
La Celeste has won 15 Copa América and South American Championship titles, the most of any nation. However, recent years brought an end to the good vibes. Uruguay was trounced in the quarterfinals in 2015 and stunningly failed to make it out of the group stage in 2016.
Barcelona striker Luis Suárez and Paris-Saint Germain attacker Edinson Cavani will lead the Uruguay front line. The superstars have combined for over 100 goals on the international stage.
23-year-old midfielder Lucas Torreira spent this season with Premier League club Arsenal and will continue to take on more responsibilities for manager Óscar Tabárez, who has led the national squad for over a decade now. Not that Arsenal had a fantastic season holding opponents to clean sheets…but a determined and cohesive CONBEMOL side can be the cure for what ails a player’s incomplete form.
After winning in 2001, Colombia has scrapped to get back into contention for another international title. The team had a solid 3rd place finish in 2016 and recently broke a 16-year World Cup drought by making the quarterfinals at Brazil ’14.
Striker Duván Zapata and attacking midfielder James Rodríguez are a dynamic duo alongside veteran forward Radamel Falcao. Zapata scored over 20 goals this season on loan with Italian club Atalanta and Rodríguez’s Golden Boot at the World Cup in 2014 is a treasured memory for Los Cafeteros supporters.
Manager Carlos Queiroz took over the squad very recently and will utilize a 4-1-4-1 system. That could make things a little complicated when trying to line-up the trio of attacking stars with smooth passing flow out from the back and around the opposing box. But there’s no question Colombia could be a dangerous side if the team gets rolling in group play.
The 2-time defending Copa América champions have been a thorn in Argentina’s side. The squad had a massive letdown in 2018, failing to qualify for the World Cup after earning trips to the knock-out round in 2010 and 2014. But you’ve got to know there’s still a lot of confidence for Copa América.
Manchester United forward Alexis Sánchez will lead the way. Sánchez has over 40 goals in 120+ appearances for Chile and can play anywhere from the wing to forward to midfield.
Midfielder Arturo Vidal has excelled at the club level for Bayern Munich and Barcelona. He’s part of a world-class Chilean nucleus in the middle of the pitch, alongside studs like Charles Aránguiz.
Reinaldo Rueda’s side is likely to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation that could prove more dangerous than bookmakers and soccer gamblers seem to think.
Chile is an outstanding futures pick-to-win at 10-to-1 betting odds.