Group A features eight-time Copa America winners Brazil and it is likely that all eyes will be on them when it comes to which team will progress from this group. Bookmakers give the Brazilians minuscule odds of 1/6 to win their group and that is definitely to be expected. In addition to the Brazilians, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia will also try to qualify for the elimination stages, but they will have to work much harder to achieve this.
Peru best of the rest
Peru are the likeliest of the chasing pack to notch that second-place finish and progress to the elimination stages. They are given odds of 6/1 to top the group and will hope to replicate their 2015 Copa America heroics when they went all the way to the semi-finals spearheaded by Paulo Guerrero. Their current captain finished the tournament as the top scorer together with Chile’s Eduardo Vargas back then and will once again try to lead his nation as far as possible.
Venezuela are the third contender to progress to the next round and are given odds of 14/1 to win the group. However, winning the group is almost impossible and qualifying from it will be a tough task for them considering that their only Copa America success worthy of mention was their semi-final back in 2011. Back then they were the surprise package of the tournament but lost to Paraguay on penalties in the semi-final. They will have the same outsider role in this tournament as well, but one feels that they will have to settle for a quarter-final match as their maximum achievement.
The team which is given the smallest chances to progress from Group A according to bookmakers is Bolivia. The Bolivians are given huge odds of 25/1 to win the group and only Qatar has worse odds in this department. Bolivian fans haven’t had much reason to be happy considering that their one and only Copa America win came in 1963 and they have only had one more final appearance in addition to that, and that was more than 20 years ago, in 1997, when they hosted the tournament.
The Brazilians go into this tournament without their biggest star, Neymar. He was left at home for this year’s Copa America because of his many off-field distractions, chief amongst which are the rape accusations made against him recently.
The PSG star will probably clear his name considering that he decided to share all personal messages texted between him and his accuser and they show that he probably walked into a trap. However, even if he manages to get out of his latest scandal unscathed, he will still be in the wrong frame of mind for a major tournament such as this one. That’s why it is no surprise that the decision for Neymar not to join his team mates was accepted calmly by the player.
Neymar was replaced by Chelsea’s Willian and the afro-sporting attacker will join other big names such as the captain Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Fernandinho, Coutinho, Filipe Luis, Roberto Firmino and other top quality players.
It is this strength in personnel that makes Brazil such a strong contender to qualify from Group A and probably end it with a perfect record of three victories. The Brazilians will be heavy favourites in all of their matches and their fixtures list is quite favourable as well.
They start off against the weakest team in the group, Bolivia and it is expected that they will win convincingly there. They are given odds of 1/16 to triumph in that match and at those odds it will be the surprise of the century if they fail to beat the Bolivians. In fact, punters should probably think about backing the Brazilians to destroy Bolivia by putting four or five goals past them.
The same should be expected in their second match against Venezuela with only their last match against Peru providing some form of firmer opposition. However, by that time the Brazilians will probably have six points in the bag and back-up players such as Richarlison, Arthur, and David Neres will be given the nod to play in that match. This means that even though the Brazilians are expected to win all of their group matches, this last match against Peru might prove to be tricky and punters should probably be wary of this.
Peru kick things off against Venezuela then play Bolivia and in the last match play against Group A favourites Brazil. The Peruvians will hope to win their two initial matches and to go into their match against Brazil knowing that they have qualified from the group.
However, that will be easier said than done, especially in their opening match against Venezuela. Their recent form has been quite problematic and they only have two victories from their last seven matches. They got somewhat of a reputation as a team which goes behind in matches and they then find it difficult to come back from that.
However, on the plus side for Peru, when they win, they tend to do it well and all of their last six victories have also been accompanied by clean sheets. Considering that both Venezuela and Bolivia are inferior sides to the Peruvians in some respects, it is not far-fetched to expect that Ricardo Geraca’s side will win both matches without conceding and it might be smart if punters backed them to win and the match to finish with only the Peruvians scoring.
Ideally, in Gareca’s mind, Peru’s last match against Brazil will be a match to determine top spot in the group. However, for this to happen, his side have to go all out in the initial two matches. That’s why it is to be expected that Peru will be one of the teams which will start the tournament very strongly hoping to win both matches and put qualification beyond doubt.
Venezuela will rely heavily on their best player, Salomon Rondon to lead them to qualification. It is definitely too much to expect that they can top the group, but finishing above Peru or getting through as one of the two best-placed teams to finish in third position should be something which is possible for Rondon and his team mates.
The Venezuelans have played hot and cold in their recent friendly matches, but friendly matches are not always an indication as to how well a team will do in a tournament. Their most recent convincing victory against the USA is certainly cause for optimism, especially when you consider that the Americans used a strong side and were expected to win the match.
This role of an underdog will probably suit Venezuela perfectly when faced against similar opposition and they will probably be a tough nut to crack for both the Brazilians and the Peruvians.
In fact, their initial match against Peru will likely be an indication as to how far the Venezuelans can go and if they manage not to lose there, they will probably qualify through either second or third place.
A draw in that match is something that the Venezuelans will be going for and considering how they drew both of their last two matches against Peru, this is probably something that betting enthusiasts should definitely consider. Backing Peru and Venezuela to cancel themselves out and draw their first match comes with odds of 2/1.
The Bolivians are going to have hard time to get out of the group and they will have to give their best in matches against Venezuela and Peru and hope that other results go their way if they are to have any chance of securing qualification.
Their first match against Brazil will probably be a match that the Venezuelans will sacrifice for better results in the other two matches. That’s why they are given astronomically high odds of 33/1 to win that match and 10/1 odds to draw.
Bolivia’s best bet would be to try and draw with Peru in their second match and then give their best against Venezuela in the last match and hope for a miracle. However, chances are that the Bolivians will have to pack their suitcases early after losing all of their matches.