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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Copa America Picks 2016 (June 7-10)

Copa America Centenario Group Stage Update
The first round of fixtures have been completed in the Copa America and it has been a slow start to the competition.

The defeat for the United States in the opening game might have dented some of the enthusiasm of the fans, but they are far from out of the tournament. Mexico have a huge following here and could easily generate plenty of interest at their games, while the fans might be hoping the star players like Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi are back sooner rather than later.

For the likes of Uruguay, Brazil and Chile, there is plenty of room for improvement to show there are going to be some legitimate challengers to Champions elect Argentina. They all have big second games in the Copa America to keep their dream alive of getting through and winning this tournament and the next few days could start eliminating teams and setting up the Quarter Finals.

Tuesday 7th June
United States v Costa Rica PickGroup A begins the second round of fixtures in the section on Tuesday and the hosts are in a very tough position having been the only team to fall to a defeat in the first round of games. However the United States will have been pleased to see Costa Rica and Paraguay share the points as they will know two wins from their remaining games will see them through to the Quarter Finals.

Games against Costa Rica have generally been very competitive and I think the tension that is going to surround the match is likely to make this one a similar case.

A defeat for the United States ends their interest in the Copa America and so they will likely be a little more cautious so they don't end in a big first half hole as they were in against Colombia. For Costa Rica avoiding defeat would likely leave them in a position where they control their own destiny in the final round of games, although that would come against Colombia.

As I've said, the United States versus Costa Rica tends to be a tight contest with these teams amongst the best in the CONCACAF region. It has to be noted that 4 of the last 5 games between these teams have ended with a 1-0 scoreline for one of these teams and goals could be at a premium in this match too.

Picking a winner is tough but the United States look very short at odds on to win this one considering the performance in the first game. Costa Rica have proven tough to beat in major international tournament matches with 7 straight draws after the result with Paraguay so I do think the draw is a big player, the first between these teams since October 2009.

However, that draw would likely be another goalless one and I will back under 1.5 goals to be scored in the match as this could easily be another 1-0 scoreline for one of these teams.

Colombia v Paraguay PickI did predict a tight start to Group A with all four teams looking fairly evenly matched, but Colombia did surprise me with their win over the United States. That means Colombia have control of the Group and a win on Tuesday would virtually assure them of winning the section and earn an 'easier' Quarter Final.

The 0-2 win over the USA coupled with Costa Rica and Paraguay playing out a goalless draw means Colombia are not under as much pressure as Paraguay to win this game. That pressure could be increased if there is a winner in the other game in the Group which is played ahead of this one and forcing the tempo has not really worked too much for Paraguay.

They have shown they are tough to beat though and Colombia do have their hands full with them in this one. Colombia might have won 3 in a row against Paraguay, but the latter have saved their best performances for the Copa America and have to be respected as Finalists and Semi Finalists in the last two editions of the competition.

I do think Paraguay will make this a tough game for Colombia as they play a very physical game which can break up the flow of a game. However I think Colombia have had a morale boosting win over the United States that they can build upon and they might be able to pick off Paraguay late if the latter are chasing a winning goal.

At just under odds against, I will back Colombia to beat Paraguay for a fourth time in a row in this one.

Wednesday 8th June
Brazil v Haiti PickThe Brazil team were booed off on Saturday as they failed to break down Ecuador, but were perhaps lucky to come away with a draw in that opening game of Group B. Brazil might have left some big names out of the squad, but this was a Group they were expected to win and so the pressure is on Dunga to achieve a much more positive result in the second round of games.

He can't complain about the opponents as Brazil face Haiti who have lost 5 of their last 7 games and who have scored just two goals in that run. With a win over Panama in preparation for the Copa America, Brazil will come into this game as the big favourites to win, but they have to show more in the final third.

A Brazil team lacking creativity is a sad sight for football fans but that is what the current crop are producing and they look a little blunt without Neymar leading the line.

If Haiti can defend properly through the ninety minutes, there is a chance they can keep Brazil at bay but it looks a long shot and I expect Brazil to win. They are being asked to cover a very big Asian Handicap which I would not trust Brazil to do at this moment of time when a win is the most important element.

Instead I will back the Haiti struggles to continue in front of goal and I will back Brazil to win this game with a clean sheet.

Ecuador v Peru PickThe second round of fixtures in these Group Stages are usually the key ones when it comes to deciding the two teams that come out of a four team Group. For Peru avoiding defeat might give them the edge over Ecuador and Brazil when it comes to potential Quarter Final spots, although there is still plenty of motivation to record the win that would put them through to the last eight in the Copa America again.

It is a much easier situation for Ecuador who will feel they should have three points on the board already having been denied a winner by the linesman against Brazil.

If Ecuador lose they will be on the brink of exiting this tournament, while a draw would only be helpful if they can assure they have a better goal difference than their rivals for a last eight place in their last game against Haiti. That is a risk to take, but Ecuador do look the stronger team and will expect they can win their remaining two games.

Their poor performances in the Copa America have to be a concern despite Qualifying for the World Cup in 2002, 2006 and 2014. In that time Ecuador have failed to make it through to the Quarter Final of the Copa America even during a time when only four teams would be knocked out in the Group Stage and I do have to be a little worried about that record.

However I think Ecuador are better than Peru and I will be looking for them to prove that if they can get close to the level they produced against Brazil in their opening game in the United States. It will likely be a close game with Peru happy to have another point on the board, but I think Ecuador will have a couple of chances and can win this one.

Thursday 9th June
Uruguay v Venezuela PickThis is a difficult spot for Uruguay to be in having conceded two goals late on in their 3-1 defeat to Mexico in the opening game of the Group. That defeat coupled with Venezuela's win over Jamaica means Uruguay have to really believe they need to win this second game if they are going to make it through to the Quarter Final.

A draw would leave their destiny in the hands of Mexico and Venezuela who will meet in the final game in the section and that could easily result in a convenient result to make sure both teams are through to the Quarter Final. Uruguay can't really allow for that to happen and I can see them coming out with a purpose in this one to secure the three points.

Venezuela have not played well against their South American rivals in recent months and their 1-0 win over Jamaica was fortunate despite having a man advantage for close to 70 minutes of the game. They will have to be a lot better to prevent Uruguay from taking the chances they offered to Jamaica and Venezuela had won 1 of their last 15 games before that victory to open this Copa America tournament.

It would obviously be a lot better for Uruguay if they had Luis Suarez back for this game, but even without their superstar they should have too much for Venezuela. I will back them to get their Copa America tournament back on track with a win in this second game and move back alongside Venezuela in the Group.

Mexico v Jamaica PickThis looked a strong Mexico squad that had been put together for the Copa America compared with the one that went to Chile last year and the momentum they had going into the tournament had them down as a 'dark horse'. More of their fans might have the belief they can go far in the tournament having beaten Uruguay in the first game in the tournament and Mexico will be expected to have almost secured a Quarter Final place by the end of this one.

A win would virtually eliminate Jamaica so you have to think they will give this a go, but Mexico are very much aware of their strengths and will be expected to be too good. They showed the difference in their 3-1 win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup Final last year and I think Mexico will be too good for them again.

I did consider Mexico to win this one with a clean sheet having put together so many of those over the last few weeks, but the goal conceded to Jamaica in their Final last year is a concern. Add in the chances Jamaica created in their first game and the Reggae Boys could be a tough match for Mexico.

However they can't afford to lose and that is where I think Mexico will take advantage as they showed some quality counter attacking against Uruguay. I can see a position where Mexico are leading this match going into the final fifteen minutes and scoring another goal late on to cover the Asian Handicap and that is what I will be backing.

Only Colombia's win over the United States has been won by more than a single goal margin up to the time of writing, but I can see Mexico doing that here.

Friday 10th June
Chile v Bolivia PickThe 2-1 loss to Argentina is a big blow to Chile, but they should still be good enough to get out of the Group and from there the defending Champions will be dangerous. They have to pick up their form and rediscover what got them through to the Copa America title last year, but I think facing a team like Bolivia will aid Chile in that regards.

This is a team they have dominated for the most part in recent games and Chile hammered Bolivia in the Group Stage last year. While I do think Bolivia will give Chile more to think about than in their 5-0 loss last year, it would be a big surprise if Chile were not able to win this game and then follow that with a victory over Panama.

We know where Bolivia stand having lost to Panama and a loss here ends their tournament so you have to think there will be that pressure to push forward if they are behind. They are conceding goals at an alarming rate though and Chile have the firepower to expose those vulnerabilities so it is no surprise the layers are asking them to cover more than two goals on the Asian Handicap.

Instead of looking for Chile to do that, considering their own defensive issues in recent games, I will back these teams to combine for at least three goals in this second game of the Group.

Argentina v Panama PickLionel Messi might just be rested for the rest of the Group Stage after Argentina beat Chile without him even if the fans might not be the happiest about that. For the long term goals of winning this tournament, resting Messi and getting him fit for the Quarter Final and beyond would make the most sense for Argentina.

There is enough attacking talent at their disposal to win this game without Messi and Argentina go into the match as the big favourite to win. It would be a huge upset if they were to be beaten by Panama, but Argentina will need to be at their flowing best in the final third to break down a team that will defend deep.

Panama might even feel this is a 'shot to nothing' for them to make it through to the Quarter Final as they will likely have that decided in a final game with Chile even if they lose this one. They can then take it to Argentina but I can't see how this will be much different from their 2-0 loss to Brazil in the friendly games prior to the Copa America.

With the players in the forward areas, I expect Argentina to win this one by a couple of goals and book their place in the last eight.

MY PICKS: USA-Costa Rica Under 1.5 Goals @ 2.80 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Colombia @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Brazil Win to Nil @ 1.53 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ecuador @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Uruguay @ 1.67 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Mexico - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chile-Bolivia Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Argentina - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.60 Bet365 (2 Units)

Copa America Match Day 2 Update: 4-4, - 0.36 Units
Copa America Match Day 1 Final: 3-5, + 0.60 Units

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