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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Copa America Group Stage Picks 2015 (June 11-21)

It might be the oldest competition in the World, but the Copa America has come a long way from the 1916 tournament which involved just four nations playing each other in a round robin Group.

Many have called the formation of the Copa America as the key to starting up the World Cup and it says a lot that this tournament was created fifty years before the European teams put together the European Championship. Of course Europe was ravaged by tensions and war for much of that time, but it still shows the forethought that South America had in creating such an event to determine the best teams.

Things have changed now as the tournament is not restricted to solely teams from South America as Mexico, Japan, Costa Rica and the United States have all been invited and this year Jamaica have been afforded that opportunity. I still think it is a strange tournament that has eighteen matches played to initially eliminate just four nations before seven are eliminated in seven matches, but the Copa America is the biggest international tournament in the summer of 2015 and is seen as the unofficial beginning of the World Cup Qualifiers in South America which will officially kick off in the autumn.


Uruguay are the team that have won the most Copa America's in the past with fifteen to their name and they broke the tie with Argentina after winning the last edition in 2011 which was held in the latter nation.

However, not many will be picking Uruguay to win this year without Luis Suarez and they are behind the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia in the outright winners market.

The talent in the Argentina squad, particularly in the forward areas, makes them the favourites to win their first major international tournament since winning the 1993 Copa America and it is hard to argue with that. Add in the fact they reached the Final at the World Cup twelve months ago and Lionel Messi is not coming into the event with the same doubts as last summer and you would be hard pressed to go against Argentina.

Brazil are the second favourites having shown tremendous recovery from the humiliating manner of their defeat at their home World Cup, but winning friendlies is an all together different prospect than doing it in competitive action. They are in a tough Group with Colombia who will be hoping Radamel Falcao can put his poor season at Manchester United behind him to lead the line.

Colomba showed plenty of promise at the World Cup last summer and Falcao has scored three goals in four internationals for them which makes them a real threat here.

Of course you can't forget about Chile who host the Copa America as they look to win the tournament for the first time in its 99 year history. The expectation is huge for Chile as many are calling this the best team they have ever had and being at home should give them another edge while Chile can also play their way into the tournament with a very cosy Group being given to them.


It would be a huge surprise if any team outside of those five mentioned were to win the Copa America, but all have a couple of doubts which makes it hard to pick a winner. Argentina have failed to really reach the level of expectations around their side, Brazil have to show they have recovered from the horrible ending to the World Cup, Chile have a lot of pressure from the home supporters behind them, Colombia will be hoping their talisman up front can return to form after a poor domestic season and Uruguay have to produce without their own talisman.


I will be using this one thread for the entire Group Stage of the Copa America and will add picks whenever I have made them.


Thursday 11th June
Chile v Ecuador Pick: The opening game at the Copa America sees the hosts Chile take on Ecuador and I am guessing plenty of people are happy to see Bolivia in the Group, but not facing Chile in the first game. That is because Bolivia have made it a habit over the last fifteen to stun the hosts by holding them to a draw in the opening game at the Copa America including against Argentina four years ago.

In fact only 1 of the last 5 hosts have won their opening game at the Copa America and all four failures have come against Bolivia so Chile have to be pleased to be facing Ecuador in this opening game of the tournament.

It would be foolish to think Chile are going to just breeze past Ecuador though as they do look the second best team in the Group even in the absence of Antonio Valencia and Felipe Caicedo who have failed to pass injury and get to travel to Chile.

Ecuador have only lost 3 of their last 10 games since being beaten in their opening game at the World Cup last summer and all of those defeats have come by the narrowest margins against Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. They have also only lost narrowly in their last two visits to Chile in World Cup Qualifiers including a 2-1 loss in October 2013 and the pressure is all on the hosts who are expected to win the tournament.

That pressure is only going to build if Ecuador sit back and look to contain Chile and even though the home team have the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal in the line up, there is no doubt they prefer being able to counter-attack rather than have the onus on them to get forward. Chile have also won 3 and lost 3 of their last 6 friendlies preparing for this tournament and this has all the hallmarks of a tight game.

I do think Chile have the quality to eventually break down Ecuador but this could be a difficult game for them and a win by the narrowest of margins could be worth a small interest.


Friday 12th June
Mexico v Bolivia Pick: It isn't very surprising that Mexico manager Miguel Herrera has been defiant about Mexico's chances at the Copa America despite clearly picking a squad that is missing a number of first team players. The Gold Cup is clearly the priority for Mexico, but they are still considered strong favourites to beat Bolivia in this opening game of the tournament for each team.

Chile will be expected to move into the Quarter Finals from Group A, but second spot looks to be up for grabs after Ecuador were beaten and both of these teams will feel they can take advantage. However, Bolivia have really struggled to perform away from the altitude that gives them such an advantage at home and it has been 35 games on their travels since they have won.

On the other hand, Bolivia have regularly played spoiler in the opening game of the Copa America in recent years even if they have failed to win a game since reaching the Final of the 1997 edition which they hosted. Bolivia haven't enjoyed playing Mexico with just 1 win and 9 losses from 11 previous games, but both games they have avoided defeat have come in the Copa America albeit the last match coming back in 1997.

Bolivia have shown their worthiness to cause an upset by holding Chile to a 2-2 draw recently, and I did want to go against a Mexico team that clearly has bigger fish to fry this year. I am not surprised that Herrera doesn't see it that way, but a small interest in Bolivia holding them here, because I don't think they have enough to win the game, looks the call.


Saturday 13th June
Uruguay v Jamaica Pick: No Luis Suarez and the sheer fact that Uruguay have accepted that they are currently moving through a transition period from the side that won the Copa America 2011 makes the most successful nation in this competition's history an outsider to win this time around.

Of course they won't want to let go of the title they won four years ago lightly, but other nations do look in a better place to challenge for the title and anything beyond the Quarter Finals may be seen as a success for Uruguay. I wouldn't want to rule them out completely as they have beaten Chile 1-2 here a few months ago and come into the tournament with 4 wins from their last 5 games.

It was a disappointing World Cup for Uruguay twelve months ago, which they are trying to move on from, but they have a Group they should be able to get out of. However, Uruguay have to make a positive start to the competition with the 'easiest' team in the section first up as Jamaica make their first appearance in the Copa America.

Jamaica, like Mexico in Group A, might have bigger fish to fry with the Gold Cup to come later this summer, but they have brought a strong squad to Chile for the tournament. However, Jamaica aren't fooling themselves and know they will need Uruguay and Argentina to have an off day if they are going to spring a surprise or two in the event and their best bet might be to beat Paraguay and hope to come through as one of the two best third place finishers.

Even without the likes of Suarez, Diego Forlan, Diego Lugano and Martin Caceras, Uruguay should still have too much and I expect them to win with room to spare.


Argentina v Paraguay Pick: The favourites for the Copa America will be looking for their first major international title since winning the 1993 edition of the competition. After reaching the Final of the World Cup last summer and coming up short, Argentina have come to Chile looking for a title that this talent pool should have earned before.

Reaching the Final and falling short at the World Cup was a blow to Argentina, but the real mission has to be to erase the painful performance four years ago at the Copa America which was held in their own country. Argentina were beaten in the Quarter Finals at that tournament, but they come into this one with their players in form, especially Lionel Messi who had a stunning season for Barcelona.

Gerardo Martino's familiarity with the Barcelona players should help, while his appointment has also brought about an encouraging change of tactic with Argentina playing a much more attacking brand of football compared with the team that played at the World Cup. The latter might have been effective, but this Argentina can excite the players and really show off the deep attacking talent pool Argentina can call upon.

They have won 5 of their last 6 games and open up against a Paraguay team that struggled in the last set of World Cup Qualifiers. Paraguay have won just 1 of their last 9 games heading into the Copa America and were beaten heavily by Argentina in both World Cup Qualifiers a couple of years ago. It might be a containing job for them against the toughest team in the Group, but I expect Argentina to break them down and can make a strong start to their tournament.


Sunday 14th June
It was a strange day on Saturday with the Argentina-Paraguay game seeing the favourites lose a 2-0 lead, but you can't say Paraguay didn't deserve their draw. Both teams had chances in the game, but the underdog never gave up despite looking completely outclassed in the opening half and it might be a point that can help them through to the Quarter Finals.

Colombia v Venezuela Pick: There is no doubting the attacking talent that Colombia can rely upon in this tournament and that makes them one of the favourites to win the Copa America. With only three Groups making up the tournament, Colombia do have to face Brazil in this section, so getting off to a good start is imperative.

On paper, facing Venezuela in the opening match of the tournament looks a favourable game for Colombia, but the former gave them a lot of trouble in the World Cup Qualifiers so can't be underestimate. Colombia failed to beat them in the two Qualifiers, drawing at home and losing in Venezuela, and they have won just 3 of their last 12 games against this opponent.

It wasn't that long ago that Venezuela would have been seen as the weakest of the South American teams, but this is an improving nation that have reached the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals in the last couple of Copa America events. Venezuela also improved their positioning the last World Cup Qualifiers, although still missed out on a place at the Finals, and they have won 3 of 4 games heading into this one.

Those games have come against lesser teams than Colombia, but Venezuela's performances against them in recent games will give them confidence. Games in the Copa America have been tight to open the tournament and I think this is far from a straight-forward win for the favourites Colombia.

However, I do think they win this game although the best way to back them might be to see Colombia win by a single goal margin.


Brazil v Peru Pick: It might not have shown up in friendly matches since the World Cup, but the manner in which Brazil were beating at the tournament they hosted last year will likely lead to nerves as they begin their Copa America campaign. While many of these players have escaped the anger of the fans, Brazil will also know they need to begin healing the wounds from last summer by putting in a strong performance in this tournament.

Some may even go as far as to say anything less than winning the Copa America won't be enough to satisfy a fanbase that will never forget the 1-7 defeat in the Semi Final against Germany. The 0-3 defeat to Netherlands in the Third Place Play Off has been forgotten a little more, but losing their last two matches at their own World Cup by a 1-10 margin has to have hurt Brazil.

Dunga took over as manager and has tried to restore the side back to basics by making sure they are defensively sound in games since then. Brazil have won all 10 friendlies played since the World Cup and have only conceded two goals since. That includes wins over Colombia, Argentina, France and Chile for the loss of just one goal so it is clear what Dunga is trying to instill in the side.

Brazil should be comfortable with their opening game against Peru who remain one of the weakest teams in South America. While hard to beat in Lima, they lost all but one of their away World Cup Qualifiers and Peru may have won 5 of their last 9 games but simply don't play opposition of the level of Brazil for much of those.

The one time they did saw Peru crushed 3-0 in Chile and I expect Brazil to win this one quite comfortably. The nerves in the Brazil camp does worry me a little though so backing the favourites to win with a clean sheet looks the best way to get going in Group C.


Monday 15th June
Ecuador v Bolivia PickThere might not have been too many people out there that expected Ecuador to win their first Copa America game since 2001 as they faced the hosts in the opening game, but there will be a lot more expectation on them this time. In a Group that contained Chile, Mexico and Bolivia, Ecuador are not just expected to win a game at the Copa America but also progress to the Quarter Finals and that will begin on Monday.

The 2-0 loss to Chile was a result that many might have predicted, but Ecuador were far from overawed and had late chances to perhaps cause the upset. That will be the hardest game they have in the Group and Ecuador now face Bolivia who earned an unexpected point from their first game against an unfancied Mexico team.

That is down to the fact that Mexico have brought together their young team to this tournament with the focus on the Gold Cup and that led to a disappointing goalless draw with Bolivia in the opening game. Well it was disappointing for Mexico, but the point gives Bolivia a chance to move into the Quarter Finals if they can win this game which would all but guarantee their place in the next Stage.

Ecuador's form won't exactly inspire with just 1 win in 5 games and 3 losses in that time, but losses to Mexico, Argentina and Chile aren't too much to be concerned about as those teams are above Ecuador's level. However, one of their wins since the World Cup last summer was a convincing 4-0 win over Bolivia in Florida and they will look to that result to build the confidence to take into this second game of the Group.

The two games in the World Cup Qualifiers between these teams were both tight though as Bolivia drew 1-1 at home and lost 1-0 in Quito before that friendly defeat last year. Bolivia's troubles away from home are well documented and this is simply a team that not many believe can really move into the final eight teams as a regular towards the bottom of the South American teams.

It was a strong performance to keep Mexico out in the first game, but Ecuador have a lot of pace and power in forward areas and will be more expansive than they were against Chile. Ecuador showed enough about their game after falling behind and created some opportunities to score the goals to get back into the match and a similar level here might be too much for Bolivia to handle.

While Bolivia have played spoiler in plenty of their opening games at the Copa America in recent years, they haven't been able to maintain that into the second game. They can make life difficult for teams and deserve some respect for a 2-2 draw against Chile recently, but Ecuador should find the quality to breakthrough and win this by the narrowest of margins.


Chile v Mexico Pick: A 2-0 win over Ecuador has almost given Chile a place in the Quarter Finals of the Copa America, but they can virtually wrap up top spot in the Group with another victory over short-handed Mexico who could only earn a goalless draw in their first game against supposed whipping boys Bolivia.

Miguel Herrera was insistent that Mexico hadn't looked past their invitation to the Copa America, but the squad was a clear indication that Mexico are more interested in regaining the Gold Cup. That isn't to say Mexico are going to be willing to roll over for anyone, but they will be under pressure from the hosts if Chile can produce the kind of performance they put together in their first game.

There is still the need for a little more ruthlessness in front of goal if Chile are going to win the Copa America for the first time in their history, but they should have too much for Mexico.

Chile might only have won 1 of their last 4 games against Mexico, but this second string squad is unlikely to be good enough to hold them especially if they are as toothless going forward as they were in the Bolivia game.


Tuesday 16th June
The Copa America is notoriously a difficult tournament to predict because of the quality of teams on show, but the 2015 edition has been incredible so far. Only 3/8 favourites have won games, and one of those was Brazil with a last minute winner.

There have been some huge priced underdogs winning, none more so than Venezuela, while Chile became the latest favourite that failed to win in an almighty tussle with Mexico which ended 3-3... So much for my claims of them looking toothless, although at least two of the goals scored was from absolutely shocking defending from the hosts.

Paraguay v Jamaica PickAside from Chile's fairly comfortable win over Ecuador, and even that 2-0 scoreline was a touch flattering if you count the chances the Ecuador team had late in the game, the Copa America has been something of a minefield to begin. Uruguay and Brazil both earned single goal wins over two overmatched teams, Argentina failed to win and Colombia were beaten.

The Argentina side blew a 2-0 lead against Paraguay in the first game for each nation in Group B, but both will think that gives them a foundation to build upon for the rest of the tournament. For Paraguay it was a particularly pleasing result as they now face what is considered to be the weakest team in Group B knowing a win will put one foot into the Quarter Finals.

On another day Paraguay would have been blown away by Argentina with the number of chances they offered up the favourites for the Copa America, but that would be looking at the game with a 'glass half empty' kind of attitude. A 'glass half full' Paraguay fan would point out that despite limited possession, their side created plenty of chances to WIN the game, let alone earn a draw and the 2-2 scoreline was a fair reflection simply taking into consideration the opportunities both nations had to score more goals.

It is a different feeling for Paraguay now though as they will be expected to win this game after having 'nothing to lose' against Argentina. That puts a different pressure on a team and winning games has been a problem for Paraguay who have just a solitary victory from their last 10 games.

Jamaica showed in their game against Uruguay that they have more about them than simply making up the numbers and looking ahead to the Gold Cup next month. They are a big, strong team that will feel they can expose the Paraguay backline that looked vulnerable in their first game, albeit against one of the more impressive looking attacks in world football. Set pieces are going to be huge for Jamaica who won't fear Paraguay having beaten Venezuela in a friendly and having won their last two games against Paraguay, the last of which was back in 2003 though.

They will also look to exploit any doubts in the Paraguay team which hasn't won a Copa America game since 2007 even though they reached the Final four years ago behind five consecutive draws with the latter two games won on penalties. Expectation can do a funny thing to teams and Paraguay have raised those after their 2-2 draw with Argentina.

Both teams look they are capable of scoring goals in this one with the way they played in the opening game and the layers are offering big odds on there being at least three shared out. Recent games played by these teams suggest those are too big and worth backing in a game that could easily see both teams going for the three points late on which could help them through to the Quarter Finals.


Argentina v Uruguay PickThe two most successful teams in Copa America history would have always been looking at this Group B game as the one that would decide which of these teams top the Group. However, Argentina failed to match the victory that Uruguay had in their opening game and that means all the pressure is on the favourites for the tournament to get their Copa America back on track.

Not many would have been backing against Argentina at the end of the first half of their opening game in Chile as they led Paraguay 2-0 and were dominant. For all of the praise Gerardo Martino has received for his tactics to get the best out of the attacking players Argentina possess, there was some naivety in the second half as they allowed their opponents back into the game and constantly left the defence short of numbers despite the lead.

To be fair to Martino, he might point out the number of chances Argentina had when the game was 2-1 to finish off Paraguay, but some poor finishing and bad luck prevented them from really kicking on as the manager would have liked. The point earned is not going to break the Argentina tournament, but they have to reverse history as none of their 14 Copa America wins have come after failing to win their opening game at the tournament.

Argentina have to take the game to a Uruguay team that are not expected to defend the title they won four years ago thanks to losing some influential pieces of their squad over the last twelve months. However, they are still a dangerous team and would have enjoyed seeing some of the defensive problems Argentina had in the first game and will feel they can exploit those through Edison Cavani who leads the line in the absence of Luis Suarez.

A 1-0 win over Jamaica was perhaps a little tighter than Uruguay would have liked it to be, but the three points puts them on the brink of qualification to the Quarter Finals and they would take a point from this game. They will know that Argentina have gotten the better of recent meetings between these rival nations, but Uruguay can also hold on to their Quarter Final victory over Argentina in the last Copa America which was hosted by the latter.

That revenge factor might have played a part in Argentina's second half display against Paraguay and it does make me wonder if they had already turned their attention to this game. If that is the case, it cost Argentina three points in the first game, but they showed plenty of promise to think they can bounce back.

Defensively Argentina have to be a lot better because this Uruguay team are still dangerous even in the absence of Suarez. However, I think the Argentina attack gives Uruguay plenty to think about too and it looks like a game that might see a rare clear victory in this tournament.

Both teams have been in good form heading into the tournament which makes this a tighter game to predict than the layers may think who make Argentina a pretty strong favourite. While they looked impressive going forward, it is hard to imagine Uruguay failing to trouble them the other way after the defensive holes that Paraguay opened up. That does lead me to believe this could be another high-scoring game and both teams might score at least once before Argentina pull away.


Wednesday 17th June
Brazil v Colombia Pick: Brazil and Colombia were expected to dominate Group C but neither team were particularly good in their opening game of the tournament. At least Brazil managed to score late to beat Peru 2-1, but all the pressure is on Colombia who lost their opening game 0-1 against Venezuela and could be exiting the competition with another loss.

Only four teams are knocked out at this stage of the tournament so Colombia won't be definitely out if they lose, although they will begin to look at other results and would have to beat Peru in their final game. The loss to Venezuela was so disappointing as one of the favourites struggled to impose themselves on the game and they will need to turn things around drastically if they are going to recover against Brazil.

However, Brazil will need to improve on their own performance as they struggled to really find the creativity to break down Peru for much of that game. They did come back from a goal down to beat Peru thanks to a last minute goal and Brazil beat Colombia 2-1 at the World Cup last summer in the Quarter Finals.

They have won 11 straight games since the World Cup, but Brazil have to handle the pressure of the fanbase who want to show a recovery from that tournament by winning the Copa America. That pressure seemed to bring out a nervous performance from them, but Brazil have found a way to beat Colombia twice in the last twelve months and I do think they can make it yet another victory over a dangerous side.

Only Ecuador and Jamaica have lost both games they have played so far so most teams have bounced back from a poor start. None of the teams have won both games played in the tournament and the last two games between these teams have been highly competitive.

I can't imagine Colombia will be as poor as they were in the first game for a second time in a row. A point isn't the worst result for Brazil and keeps Colombia alive in the Copa America and might be something that both team will end up being very happy to take and then go into the last games with qualification in their own hands.


Thursday 18th June
Peru v Venezuela Pick: This Copa America has been embarrassingly bad for my picks, but I do feel the picks could have had a bit more luck.

Some stunning collapses or missed opportunities have hurt, but I have also failed to get a real read out of teams with none of them showing any kind of consistency in the first couple of matches. Now the second round of fixtures is completed with Venezuela trying to back up a win over Colombia as they take on a Peru side who conceded late to lose their first game in the Group.

After Colombia beat Brazil, Peru can't be knocked out of the tournament in this game, but a defeat would mean they are on the brink of an exit. Out of their two remaining games, Peru will look at the Venezuela game as the one they need to win if they are going to progress to the Quarter Finals.

Four years ago Peru reached the Semi Final of the Copa America and crushed Venezuela 4-1 in the Quarter Finals. The two games in the World Cup Qualifiers were very entertaining with plenty of goals shared by the teams, although a friendly in Florida ended up with a single goal helping Venezuela to the win.

Peru don't think Venezuela are going to allow them to play, but I also think the latter know they can earn their place in the Quarter Finals by winning this game rather than hoping to do enough in the Brazil game. A point isn't the worst result for Venezuela too and Peru are expecting them to spoil as much as possible to earn that, but they have shown they can score goals against Peru in recent games against them.

The Copa America has failed to spark just yet, but this could be a game that features at least three goals as both teams look to get forward to achieve their objectives in this tournament.


Friday 19th June
Mexico v Ecuador Pick: A different looking Mexico team beat Ecuador 1-0 in a friendly in the United States three months ago, but games between these nations have been fairly entertaining when they have met in either the Copa America or World Cup over the last thirteen years.

They have met three times in that period in a major international tournament and it is Mexico who have won all three times by the same 2-1 scoreline. A second string Mexico team shouldn't be giving Ecuador the same issues, but the latter have been disappointing in the tournament and have been left in a desperate spot to qualify for the Quarter Finals.

Both teams have it all to play for and there is little reason for any of the teams to sit back and hope they do enough to qualify. Some of the defending in the last game from Ecuador was pretty awful to say the least, but they found a way to get the attacking players going and they do look a big price to win this game.

Mexico played well against Chile, but they could have lost that game by a wide margin if the hosts had been a little better so they look a touch over-rated in this one.

No matter who scores first, this game will open up with the other team chasing to get back into the match as they look to move into the Quarter Finals. The Copa America has been a tough tournament, but it would be a real surprise if this match didn't feature at least three goals.


Chile v Bolivia Pick: The big story at the Copa America had nothing to do with the football this week as Arturo Vidal totalled his Ferrari and was arrested for drink-driving. It has caused a divide in the host nation with many saying Vidal should be thrown out of the tournament despite him being the leading goalscorer for Chile.

Others are obviously behind Vidal to stay with Chile as they look to bounce back from a 3-3 draw with Mexico which leaves them still a little short of a place in the Quarter Finals. A win on Friday will see Chile move through as the top team in Group A and they have dominated Bolivia in the past to think they can beat the overachieving underdogs.

Not many would have picked Bolivia as one of the teams to come out of the Group, but they have picked up four points and look almost certain to qualify for the Quarter Finals even as one of the best third place finishers. That should give them the freedom to perform in this match, although Bolivia will need the same level of composure in front of goal as they had against Ecuador if they are going to cause a surprise.

Bolivia earned a 2-2 draw in Chile in a friendly back in November, but they have lost their last 6 World Cup Qualifiers against them with all of those defeats coming by at least two goals each. Chile have to defend much better than they did against Mexico when they couldn't hold onto a second half lead, but they have plenty of goals in the side and I can see them winning this by a couple of goals or more.


Saturday 20th June
Uruguay v Paraguay Pick: Paraguay were sent through to the Quarter Finals thanks to Ecuador's win over Mexico on Friday and Uruguay will be able to join them as long as they don't lose this game by more than two goals.

That does ease the pressure on both teams although there are still Group positions to play for in the final round of fixtures in Group B and that could be important to try and avoid a potentially big game with Chile in the Quarter Finals for the team that finished third in the section.

It was Uruguay who came out on top at the last Copa America by beating Paraguay 3-0 in the Final, but they have to win this game to have a chance to finish above their current position of third. They haven't been the same team without Luis Suarez and there is still a real transition from the side that played at the last World Cup.

Paraguay have surprised already at this tournament by coming from 2-0 down to earn a draw with Argentina, but they won't necessarily feel the need to push in this one. Both of the games in the World Cup Qualifiers a couple of years ago ended in draws and neither team might be able to take control of this game either.


Argentina v Jamaica Pick: Quick answer, there simply isn't a pick from the game now Argentina are through and Jamaica are essentially out of the competition.

Yes, Argentina should win handily, but they might make some changes and ensure the team is ready for the next Round... On the other hand, Jamaica might not have the same effort from their first couple of games and so it really is hard to judge which way the game goes.


Sunday 21st June
Colombia v Peru Pick: This is a difficult position for both Colombia and Peru to be in as they might expect a point suits both of them to move into the Quarter Finals. Peru would be much happier with the point as they would definitely be through to the next Stage, but Colombia have scored a goal less and would then be worrying about the Brazil-Venezuela game where a high-scoring draw would knock them out of the tournament.

The easiest thing for Colombia to think is that they can win this game and move into the Quarter Final with a chance to perhaps even top the Group. However it is a strange situation in Group C which means the team finishing second in the section would have the 'easiest' Quarter Final as well as avoiding the favourites Argentina until the Final.

The team who finishes third in the Group would most likely move through and into a Quarter Final with Argentina, while the winner has a difficult looking test against unbeaten Paraguay. Colombia won't want to risk being knocked out of the tournament though and I think they could potentially have the edge in this game even without Carlos Bacca who is suspended.

Colombia were beaten by Peru when they met in the Copa America four years ago, but they won both World Cup Qualifiers a couple of years ago. This has the making of another tight contest where both teams perhaps struggle to know whether to stick or twist with the Brazil game to follow.

However, the extra motivation for Colombia to try and edge past Peru in the standings might help them through to the win. A narrow defeat won't end Peru's interest in the competition, but they would be looking for a Brazil win to push them through to the Quarter Finals.


Brazil v Venezuela Pick: The last major international tournament matches that Brazil had to play without Neymar was at the World Cup last summer when they were beaten 1-7 by Germany and 0-3 by the Netherlands. If they are going to win the Copa America, Brazil will have to do without Neymar who was suspended for four games after causing a melee at the end of the Colombia game, although Brazil will look to reduce that suspension on appeal.

They were always going to have to make do without Neymar in this game having seen their captain and talisman booked twice in the first couple of games and the pressure is on Brazil. After the way the World Cup ended, this Copa America was seen as a chance of some redemption, but Brazil's 0-1 loss to Colombia leaves them in a difficult position.

No matter what happens in the earlier game between Colombia and Peru, Brazil will want to avoid finishing third in this Group but that is very unlikely for them now. This is still far from an easy game for Brazil as they will know after drawing 0-0 with Venezuela at the last Copa America in 2011 as well as noting that this team beat the same Colombia team who beat Brazil.

You have to expect a tight game now Brazil are without Neymar and Venezuela will likely need a point to make it through to the Quarter Final as long as there is a winner in the Colombia-Peru game. If it is a draw, Venezuela will look to match or better the amount of goals scored in a draw of their own to move into the Quarter Finals.

Their first two games has shown Venezuela are unlikely to push too many men forward and will rely on a strong defensive effort to see them through. They showed they are capable of doing that against Colombia and there might not be a lot of goals in this one either.

Without Neymar, the question is whether Brazil can find the magic to open them up and that does concern me. However, I think Brazil have found a way to do that in their friendlies in preparation for this tournament and this is another game that might be settled by a single goal margin.

MY PICKS: 11/06 Chile to Win by One Goal @ 3.40 William Hill (1 Unit)
12/06 Mexico-Bolivia Draw @ 4.00 Coral (1 Unit)
13/06 Uruguay - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
13/06 Argentina - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
14/06 Colombia to Win by One Goal @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
14/06 Brazil Win to Nil @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
15/06 Ecuador to Win by One Goal @ 3.40 Stan James (1 Unit)
15/06 Chile - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
16/06 Paraguay-Jamaica Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
16/06 Argentina to Win and Both Teams to Score @ 4.33 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
17/06 Brazil-Colombia Draw @ 3.60 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
18/06 Peru-Venezuela Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Coral (2 Units)
19/06 Mexico-Ecuador Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
19/06 Chile - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
20/06 Uruguay-Paraguay Draw @ 3.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
21/06 Colombia to Win by One Goal @ 3.25 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
21/06 Brazil to Win by One Goal @ 3.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

Group Stage Update: 5-12, - 6.20 Units (25 Units Staked, - 24.80% Yield)

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