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Monday, 29 June 2015

Copa America Semi Final Picks 2015 (June 29-30)

Unlike the European Championship, the Copa America is not a tournament that lasts too long with just twelve teams taking part and we have reached the business end of the tournament in Chile.

The neutrals will be hoping the two favourites can power through their Semi Finals this week and set up the hosts Chile versus the favourites Argentina in what could be a memorable Final at the weekend. However, there are plenty of people in Peru and Paraguay that will be hoping their respective nations can upset the apple-cart and reach the Final.

Paraguay showed four years ago that an unfancied side can go all the way in the short Copa America and will look to the penalty shoot out win over Brazil to be a lucky omen for them having beaten the same nation at the same stage in the same manner last time.

It has mostly been a very positive Copa America with attacking football being played and the two Semi Finals look like they could be very entertaining, especially if they feature early goals.

Monday 29th June: Chile v Peru
There is a long history of rivalry between Chile and Peru which has stemmed from political decisions that have encompassed their sporting matches too. The 'Clasico del Pacifico' is always an important game for both of these nations, but a Copa America Semi Final has ramped up the expectation for the game.

The hosts Chile were always expected to challenge for the Copa America title and the fans will never forgive this 'golden generation' if they were to be beaten in the Semi Final. After beating Uruguay in the Quarter Final in a tight battle, Chile are big favourites to progress past Peru, although they can't look beyond a team that has surprised by getting this far in the competition.

For a nation that hasn't really threatened to return to the World Cup in recent years, even in the extended era where five teams from South America regularly represent the continent, Peru have found success in the Copa America. This is the second consecutive tournament that Peru have reached the Semi Final, although they were beaten by eventual winners Uruguay four years ago and are the underdogs this time around.

Peru have played well in the tournament with their only defeat coming to Brazil thanks to a last minute goal. Since that opening defeat, Peru have beaten Venezuela and drawn with Colombia without conceding a goal before they beat Bolivia 3-1 in the Quarter Final. Pablo Guerrero was the top scorer at the Copa America four years ago and he moved to join Arturo Vidal at the top of the chart at this tournament thanks to a hat-trick in the Quarter Final and he will be the main threat for Peru again.

However, Guerrero and Peru could be in for a more challenging time against a Chile team that has had three clean sheets in four games as they moved through the draw. The Group was always one that Chile were expected to negotiate comfortably and their 2-0 win over Ecuador and 5-0 win over Bolivia sandwiched an incredible 3-3 draw with Mexico. In the Quarter Final, Chile beat defending Champions Uruguay 1-0, but it was a controversial game which has seen Gonzalo Jara suspended for the rest of the Copa America after seeming to poke Edinson Cavani in the backside.

The scoreline might have read 1-0, but Chile created a host of chances in that game with Uruguay and they have looked a constant menace when they get the ball into the final third. Chile will be tested by the Peru defence which has conceded only one goal in their last three games, although there is also no doubting that the hosts have a far greater threat than Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia.

Expectation could be the much bigger problem to overcome for Chile who play in their first Semi Final at the Copa America since 1999 and have never won this competition. They have dealt with that expectation well earlier in the competition, but you can't underestimate what that can do to players in each passing round as they begin to smell their chance to win it all.

However, it does look like Chile have a real attacking threat that is going to be hard for Peru to nullify and I think the best chance the latter have is to take this to penalties and take their chance there. The problem for Peru will be if they fall behind because Chile have to one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in international football and have the pace up front to really pick teams off.

I'd expect Peru to pose some problems too, especially as they have only failed to score in one of their four games at the Copa America, but this is their first real away game and Chile have the better of recent meetings. Last year Chile beat Peru 3-0 in a friendly at home and they have won their last 5 home games against their rivals.

4 of those 5 wins have come by a couple of goals at least and I think Chile have the capabilities of picking off a Peru team chasing the game and moving into the Copa America Final.

Tuesday 30th June: Argentina v Paraguay
Most of the neutrals would have been hoping Brazil were able to earn a measure of revenge for their Copa America defeat to Paraguay four years ago and set up the monumental Semi Final with Argentina at this years competition. However, lightning did indeed strike twice as Paraguay defeated Brazil on the penalty shoot out for the second time in a row in the Quarter Finals of the Copa America and Argentina would be the first to tell you how difficult Paraguay have been to play.

That is because the two nations met in the Group Stage and Argentina blew a 2-0 first half lead to have to settle for a 2-2 draw with Paraguay that effectively ensured both nations would move into the Quarter Final. That game was the first for both nations in the Copa America, but with Jamaica one of the four teams in the Group, both Paraguay and Argentina beat the Caribbean nation 1-0 to move into a position to qualify.

It was Argentina who came through the Group as the winners of the section thanks to a 1-0 win over Uruguay while Paraguay settled for a 1-1 draw which meant they went through behind Argentina. Both teams had to come through on penalty shoot outs in the Quarter Final as Argentina somehow failed to break down a Colombia team despite a whole boatload of chances in that game and dominating the possession throughout.

I'd expect both nations to be very confident coming into the Semi Final- Argentina were World Cup Runners Up last year so they have the experience of big matches, while Paraguay ground their way to the Copa America Final four years ago. Paraguay had to win both their Quarter Final and Semi Final on penalties four years ago, and they have continued that trend at this years competition with the win over Brazil, although holding out for a draw with Argentina for a second time will be far from easy.

During the World Cup Qualifiers, Argentina hammered Paraguay both at home and away while they also beat them in a friendly back in 2011 so I do wonder if complacency played a part in the draw with this nation in the Group. Argentina had enough chances to win that game comfortably and they have definitely improved from a defensive standpoint through the Copa America as they bring in three clean sheets in a row.

It would take a monumental era of judgement from Argentina to give Paraguay the time and space they afforded in the Group as they were pushing far too hard when with the lead earlier the competition. Now there seems to be more balance in the Argentina line up and I don't think they will be as wasteful in front of goal as they were against Colombia.

There will be a respect for Paraguay in the Semi Final having seen them overcome Brazil in the Quarter Final and I expect that will lead to a much more solid and convincing performance from Argentina. Lionel Messi has yet to really get going in the tournament as the focus is on stopping him, but there were signs of an improved level in the Quarter Final and Argentina also have other strikers that can take the opportunities that might come their way.

I have to respect Paraguay after seeing what they did against Argentina from 2-0 down in the Group and the fact this nation reached the Final four years ago. However, it would be a surprise if the dream Final between Chile and Argentina is not set for the weekend.

MY PICKS: Chile - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Argentina - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Quarter Final Final1-3, + 1 Units (5 Units Staked, + 20% Yield)
Group Stage Final5-12, - 6.20 Units (25 Units Staked, - 24.80% Yield)

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