I hope readers don’t start to get the wrong impression. I love soccer, and especially international soccer. It’s just an awful lot to keep a grip on when your job-title includes scouting teams on 6 continents.
It’s all happening at once, or at least it feels that way.
The Women’s World Cup is headed into high gear in France as the United States Women’s National Team takes on the hosts in 1 of 4 potentially-thrilling quarterfinal matches. The Africa Cup of Nations is also in full swing.
Don’t forget the Gold Cup, CONCACAF’s bi-annual North American championship in which the USMNT is looking for a successful title defense.
Oh, and the English Premier League (along with approximately 75 other important domestic leagues in Europe) will be coming back around before you know it.
Hmm. What am I forgetting? It’s really tough to keep track of all of the worldwide events when the writer’s desk is as messy as mine is.
Wait…what was that word I just used? Messy.
Ah yes – Lionel Messi is playing soccer for his country of Argentina in CONMEBOL’s ongoing Copa América. The Atomic Flea scored a crucial penalty-kick goal that earned La Albiceleste a 1-1 draw with Paraguay in the 2nd Group Stage match last Wednesday.
Despite a hiccup against Columbia on Matchday 1, the Argentines have advanced to the quarterfinals, where the squad is a (-175) favorite to defeat Paraguay without penalties and move ahead.
Messi’s unit – which also welcomes the services of a (cough) little-known striker named Sergio Agüero – is far from the only heavy favorite in a set of weekend fixtures for which tight odds are missing.
Are there any nice upset-picks in the fold? Or will the aristocrats survive for an epic 4-team showdown?
Copa América Betting Lines, Match Previews and Best Picks
Continental football tournaments are designed to weed-out the pretenders in Group Stage and determine 4 excellent match-ups in the quarterfinal stage. Perhaps every upcoming Copa América match will be a barn-burner.
But the bookmakers sure don’t think so. While Panama vs Jamaica is the Gold Cup’s only quarterfinal pairing in which betting action could conceivably reverse the “favorite” and “underdog” roles, the favorites in the South American Q-final round are etched in stone.
It’s just a matter of how steep the betting public decides the advantage is for each kickoff.
Brazil is a (-500) wager to prevail over Paraguay at Bovada Sportsbook, and a (-526) moneyline at Sportsbetting.ag.
I mentioned Bovada’s line for Messi’s squad to win its quarterfinal in the section above. Are the Argentines even more of a short-odds wager at Sportsbetting.ag?
Yep…the line is (-186) while a (-116) payoff market on the “Over” (2, 2 ½) indicates the bookmaker’s confidence in the favorites’ 2-headed monster up front.
Friday’s match between Colombia and Chile is the only CONMEBOL quarterfinal fixture in which the perceived-stronger unit carries a “+” next to its Las Vegas line. But the Columbians are still solidly in a favorite’s role with matching (+120) odds at both aforementioned betting books.
Oh, and I promise not to make any jokes about the Coffee Growers’ starting roster-of-11 being “hand-picked by Juan Valdez.”
Finally, Uruguay is a heavy (-150) favorite to beat Peru on Saturday. The Peruvians’ longest underdog moneyline is a whopping (+475) at Bovada Sportsbook.
Because the “Messi” on my desk has kept the Copa América on the griddle for a few days, the blog is already bumping-up against the lone Thursday match featuring a Neymar-less Seleção squad.
So, as opposed to a long preview followed by “bonus picks,” please enjoy progressively longer touts on the following 4 quarterfinals…with extra attention paid to the fixtures you’ll want to collect handicapping tips on if you find this post on Friday or Saturday.
Brazil vs Paraguay (Thursday)
Los Guaraníes have acquitted themselves quite well through 3 Group matches. Paraguay opened the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Qatar, probably the most underrated international soccer squad in the world (at least judging by the lack of gambling action).
Thus followed a pair of tough matches against Argentina and Colombia in which keeper Gatito Fernández allowed only 2 combined goals but in which the nation only earned a single point.
With host Brazil having slipped once already in a Group Stage draw vs Venezuela, I’m somewhat attracted to the underdogs’ enormous (+1600) payoff line at Bovada. But the (+600) Draw moneyline and Under (2 ½) are probably wiser wagers on a match that could wind up going to penalties.
- Pick: Draw
Argentina vs Venezuela (Friday)
The Venezuelans held Brazil off the scoreboard on Matchday 2. Can they do it again against Argentina with elimination on the line?
Maybe not. Manager Rafael Dudamel’s squad is playing in a conservative 4-1-4-1 formation not unlike that of the United States Men’s National Team under Craig Berhalter.
But the relatively straight-ahead style has its drawbacks. Venezuela was matched evenly in ball-possession and striking (despite striker Salomón Rondón’s presence at the front of the array) by Peru on Matchday 1, and wound up simply holding-on in an 0-0 draw after L.D.P Mago – which sounds like a T-shirt store in the mall but was actually Venezuela’s left-back in a makeshift lineup – took a costly red card in the 2nd half.
1 – Luis Del Pino Mago saw the first red card of the 2019 Copa America; five of the last six red cards shown to Venezuelan 🇻🇪 players in the competition were against Peru 🇵🇪. Rage.#CopaAmerica pic.twitter.com/1TbJIimzBh
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) June 15, 2019
Rondón is boasting to the press of his confidence in defending Messi. That’s a kiss of death.
This is the type of match where an underdog used to playing cautiously could get blown-out once they give up 1 or 2 goals and have no idea how to react.
- Pick: Argentina to cover (-1)
Colombia vs Chile (Friday)
The Coffee Growers have soared through the Group Stage without conceding a goal, which has a lot to do with the (+120) favorites’ moneyline.
But the 3rd match of the quarterfinals could come down to Colombia’s ability to attack the Chilean backline, not the other way around.
Chile’s backline looked like a million dollars after keeper Gabriel Arias posted a clean sheet in a commanding 4-0 win over the Samurai Blue of Japan on Matchday 1. But the Japanese aren’t anything like they were at the World Cup in Russia, a squad in transition for which a few dry spells on the attack are anything but a surprise.
The Chileans faced tougher sledding against Ecuador on Matchday 2, but a 4-across backline defended a strong opponent well for most of the match while Alexis Sánchez scored the winner early in the 2nd half.
Matchday 3 was another story, as Uruguay scored the winner and could have had 3 or 4 more tallies in a match dominated by the favorites. I’m expecting the same from Radamel Falcao and the Colombians this weekend.
- Pick: Colombia to win
Uruguay vs Peru (Saturday)
Finally, it’s time for a recommendation on the Over/Under.
Sportsbetting.ag is offering an Asian Handicap of (2, 2 ½) O/U total goals on the Uruguay vs Peru fixture Saturday afternoon in Salvador. Everyone knows my – ahem – high opinion of Asian Handicapping on the goal total, so we’ll avoid that line even with Japan and Qatar having flown overseas to play in the South American gala.
But at Bovada Sportsbook, the O/U for the same match is a solid (2) with a (-140) payoff line on the Over. Is it worth dealing with the bad price to get the best pick?
Bookies are thinking there’s a chance Peru can hold Uruguay off the board altogether, considering that La Blanquirroja played to a 0-0 draw with Venezuela last week. But we’ve already gone over just how stolid and defense-minded the Venezuelans have shown to be in Brazil, and the match was chippy with 26 fouls plus the aforementioned “mall shop” red card.
I’m not expecting the same type of fixture on Saturday. There are a few inexperienced bodies who could see time playing on the favorites’ backline and in the midfield, so skipper Óscar Tabárez is likely to call for an up-tempo attack to keep the football far away from his side’s box.
When names like Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavini dot the forward lines, that’s not a bad idea at all – and should lead to at least 2-3 goals for the Uruguayans. Peru could fight back, but the Over is an even-safer pick than the moneyline this time.