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Friday, 3 June 2016

Copa America 2016 Picks (June 3-6)

Copa America Centenario 2016
The focus in Europe is clearly on the European Championships which will begin a week after the Copa America, but you can't fall asleep on this competition.

I think it is unfortunate that Premier Sports have earned the rights to show the entire tournament as that is yet another subscription channel in the United Kingdom and it could have the Copa America flying under the radar somewhat.

This has always been one of those competitions that I have enjoyed and while the expanded edition this year has introduced a few more nations, I do think the big hitters from South America are going to dominate proceedings.

It does look a very good opportunity for Argentina to end their twenty-three year wait for a major international tournament, although this is a team that has been beaten at the business end of both of the last two big tournaments they have played. Germany beat Argentina in extra time of the World Cup Final and Chile were too good in a penalty shoot out in the Copa America last year so there are some mental scars for them to overcome.

Brazil might be focusing on the Olympics which are played at home to erase the painful memories of their own World Cup campaign and the last two Copa America tournaments have both resulted in Quarter Final exits.

I do think the likes of Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay would need the rub of the green to win the tournament so the big threat to Argentina may come from the defending Champions Chile. Those two teams meet in the Group Stage and that could potentially be the Final for a second year in a row in the Copa America.

Of the invited teams, the United States and Costa Rica may feel they have a very strong chance of a good showing, but it is the Mexicans who look like they could go deepest. However they are in Group C which means a Quarter Final against either Argentina or Chile and the feeling is that the latter two nations would prove too good in a Knock Out tie.

The USA and Costa Rica are in a very difficult Group A and there is no guarantee that either will make it through to the Quarter Finals, while surprise package at the Gold Cup in 2015, Jamaica, are in a very difficult Group C.

This tournament will actually come to a conclusion within the month of June having started a week before the Euro 2016 tournament, but it certainly could provide some very interesting late night viewing once people have had their fill of the action in France.

June looks like being a football fan's perfect month to fill the void before the return of domestic football in August.

I will be making picks from the Copa America through the tournament, but I am going to break down the Group Stage Picks into their 'Match Days'. So on this thread I will make picks from the opening games of the four Groups before setting up a new thread for the second round and third round of matches respectively.

Individual threads for the Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and the Final will also be created as it feels the best way to limit the information within one post and easier to access.

Hopefully June follows from a very positive 2016 to this point for the football picks after a pretty horrendous August-December.

Friday 3rd June
The hosts have the honour of opening up the Copa America 2016 on Friday 3rd June although the game won't be played until the early hours of Saturday morning for those of us in Europe.

United States v Colombia PickI can imagine most people in Europe are very much focused on the Euro 2016 tournament which is a week away from beginning, but in North and South America it is the Copa America which is king this month.

The United States have the honour of hosting the first ever tournament that is being played outside of South America and the competition is attracting plenty of interest. How long that lasts could be related to how far the United States are able to get into the tournament, although they will be challenged in a very strong looking Group.

Facing off against Colombia in the opening game is going to be a big test for the United States despite their winning run entering the Copa America. This does look the hardest game they will have in the Group even if I am not overlooking the damage Paraguay and Costa Rica could potentially cause in the section.

The Colombians are also on a winning run entering the tournament, but they have to be worried about the lack of playing time their star player James Rodriguez has had. Yes he will be fresh, but finding a rhythm could potentially take time too in unfamiliar conditions.

Group games where only the top two teams are going to make it through to the Knock Out Stages tend to be cautious in the first game. Neither team will want to lose and be put on the brink of elimination and so teams tend to lean towards the 'must not lose' side of things.

I can see this one playing out in that manner even if the quality does make me favour Colombia as the more likely winner. However I think I will begin this tournament by having a small interest in the opening game of the Copa America ending with both teams sharing a point and hoping to come through the Group against the other two teams in the section.

Saturday 4th June
The hosts might be opening the tournament on Friday, but Saturday will see the Copa America really get going as three games are scheduled back to back, including the Brazilian's getting their campaign going.

Costa Rica v Paraguay PickThe opening game of Group A is going to be played on Friday night so this game comes the day after when both Costa Rica and Paraguay will know what is constituting a really good result.

I am not sure that both Costa Rica and Paraguay are looking at the other as the weakest team in the section and that usually will see a response from the players with a little more desire to secure the three points. This does look a Group that will go down to the wire though with the four teams all surely believing they can make it through to the Quarter Finals and can I see all of the games in Group A being fairly tight and competitive.

That goes for this one where neither team will want to lose and be left in a very difficult position when it comes to making it through to the last eight.

For all of the success that Paraguay have had in the Copa America in the last two editions of the tournament, it has to be noted that Paraguay have won 1 of their last 14 games in the Copa America. That is hard to imagine for a team that has reached a Final and a Semi Final in the last two tournaments, and 8 of those 14 games have ended in draws.

Even with that in mind, my slight lean does go towards Paraguay to make a winning start, but Costa Rica are a team that drew all 4 games at the Gold Cup last year and I think backing the draw for a small interest makes enough sense to do that.

Haiti v Peru PickWhile I have tended to think the opening games in the Group Stage of major international tournaments go towards the more cautious end of the spectrum, matches like this one could be a little different.

The reason is that both Haiti and Peru have to look at the other and think anything less than a win would likely result in their exit from the tournament. With Brazil and Ecuador to come, you have to think that is the right way of thinking and that might lead to a more open game than the early stages of a tournament usually dictate.

Peru have shown they have the beating of teams from Haiti's level having done that in friendly games against Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador. Both of those wins saw Peru score at least three times and I expect them to look to get on the front foot in this one and put Haiti under pressure.

You have to respect the way Haiti performed at the Gold Cup last year so they have tournament experience, but the level they face here will be considerably better. Haiti did give Colombia some trouble in a recent friendly before being reduced to ten men, but they won't be overawed in this one and I think they will try and give it a go.

The edge should land in favour of Peru with the extra experience at this level of competition but I will look for the game to surprise the layers and back at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.

Brazil v Ecuador PickThe depleted Brazil squad might not have the recognisable names that many would be looking for, but there is still plenty of quality retained by Dunga for the Copa America. There will be a real expectation for Brazil to surpass the Quarter Final Stage which has done for them in back to back Copa America tournaments, but the first game in the United States will be a big test for them.

The Copa America hasn't agreed with Ecuador in recent years, but a strong start to the World Cup Qualifiers has them going into Group B as the second favourites to qualify for the Quarter Finals. Losing the first game would make it very difficult for Ecuador especially if there is a winner in the Haiti-Peru game, but both of those nations will be ones that Ecuador expect to beat.

You can imagine this first game being closely contested with neither team wanting to lose and being put into that difficult position in the Group. The big question for Ecuador will be how much belief they have to take on a Brazil squad missing Neymar but pushing too far could allow their more illustrious opponents to hit them hard on the counter attack.

I do think Brazil will have a slight edge in this one and I do think they can win this one, although it will be anything but easy.

Instead of backing Brazil at odds against, I think they can be backed to win this game by exactly one goal, a margin in which they won both games at the Copa America in 2015. That looks the most likely outcome for this first game for both of these nations and I will have a small interest in that occurring.

Sunday 5th June
The first two Groups will have gotten through their first round of games, but Sunday will move to Group C where Mexico and Uruguay are expected to dominate. However, if there is a winner when the two underdogs play one another in the opening game of the Group, that winner might be in a strong position to upset one of the two favourites to Qualify for the Quarter Finals.

Jamaica v Venezuela PickThe layers have tabbed Venezuela as the favourites to win this opening game in Group C and I have to say I am not in agreement with them. While Venezuela are playing in the stronger continent, draws in friendly games against Galicia, Panama and Guatemala are hardly going to inspire confidence in their ability to perform in the United States.

They are also going up against a Jamaica team that shocked Chile in a friendly last week and have solid tournament experience with a run to the Gold Cup Final in 2015. The three losses in the Copa America last season in the Group came against Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina and Jamaica lost each of those games 1-0 against better teams than this Venezuela one.

Neither team can really point to a deep run of form to back them with confidence but I can see Wes Morgan trying to inspire his team-mates to follow the Leicester City story. Getting out of the Group won't match up with winning the Premier League, but it would be a huge achievement for Jamaica and they can make a strong start to that end in this match in my opinion.

I just can't help feel the wrong team is being set as the favourite in this one with Jamaica likely to be a little more used to the conditions they will see in the United States. I did consider backing Jamaica to win this game at big odds, but instead will try the more cautious approach and simply look to back them in the 'Draw No Bet' market to at least avoid defeat if they can't quite win the game.

They are odds against in that market and I think Jamaica are worth chancing at that price against a Venezuela team that have been out of sorts for some time.

Mexico v Uruguay PickThe expected absence of Luis Suarez for Uruguay coupled with the improved performances of Mexico have seen the price shrink on the Mexicans winning this opening game of Group C.

There is no doubt that the majority of the support in the stadiums in the United States will be for Mexico, unless the hosts are playing, and that should make it feel like a home game for the Mexican team. With a stronger squad than they brought to Chile for the Copa America last year and with a Gold Cup success behind them, Mexico can make a very strong start to this tournament.

Goals have been at a premium in the opening games of the Copa America and it might only take a single one to win this game. With Uruguay missing Suarez and Mexico having in-form Javier Hernandez leading the line, I will back Mexico to get that goal and move into a strong position in Group C to Qualify for the Quarter Finals.

Monday 6th June
Panama v Bolivia PickThe layers are siding with Panama in this match and I think that has a lot to do with the run that Bolivia have been on with their 9 losses in 10 games. It has to be said that the majority of those games have been against better teams than Panama and it is hard to back a team that has failed to score in 4 of their last 5 games.

Defensively Bolivia have been poor too and Panama showed in the Gold Cup last season that they are a tough team to beat. Mexico and the United States both failed to do that in normal time and Panama did reach the Semi Final of that tournament, but this looks to be a match that could decide which of these sides finish 3rd in a very tough Group.

Goals have not exactly been flowing in the Copa America so far with a grand total of three goals in the first four games played at the tournament. This looks another that might need a single goal to decide the winner and I will have a small interest on this match featuring one or fewer goals on the day.

A single goal might be enough to win this game and both attacks have struggled so backing fewer than two goals looks the call.

Argentina v Chile PickThere was a measure of revenge for Argentina over Chile for the Copa America Final loss last year when they beat them in a World Cup Qualifier in March this season. However, the Argentina fans have been starved of a major international tournament and will be looking for this extremely talented squad to end the twenty-three year wait between trophies.

The injury to Lionel Messi is a concern but Argentina would get through this Group even if they wanted to make sure Messi is fully fit before the Quarter Final against either Mexico or Uruguay who look the teams likely to come through Group C.

The positioning for Argentina in the Group could be decided by this game and Chile have the quality to really hurt them even if they have been in poor form recently.

I think the fact this is coming early in the Group Stage could see both teams give this a go knowing a win likely locks up top spot in the Group. Even a losing team would expect to beat Panama and Bolivia to make their way into the Quarter Final and that might lead to both Argentina and Chile perhaps being more adventurous than the majority of the early Group matches have been in the Copa America.

I will look for the teams to use their attacking talent to produce one of the better games in the opening round of Group matches and I will back these teams to provide at least three goals shared out.

MY PICKS: USA-Colombia Draw @ 3.20 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Costa Rica-Paraguay Draw @ 3.10 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Haiti-Peru Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Coral (2 Units)
Brazil to Win by One Goal @ 3.60 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Jamaica Draw No Bet @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Mexico @ 2.50 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Panama-Bolivia Under 1.5 Goals @ 2.63 William Hill (1 Unit)
Argentina-Chile Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Copa America Group Stage Match Day 1 Update: 3-5, + 0.60 Units

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