Copa America’s Group B features two strong contenders to progress to the elimination stages in Argentina and Colombia, a good candidate to qualify via third place as one of the best two placed teams, in Paraguay, and the biggest outsider in this year’s competition, Qatar.
Argentina are the stand-out favourites in this group and there is little doubt that they will progress to the next stage. The Leo Messi-led team will be even further motivated to lift this year’s trophy considering the fact that the host of the tournament is their arch-rival Brazil.
Bookmakers are definitely in agreement that Argentina will progress to the elimination round and as a result are giving them odds of 8/11 to win their group.
Argentina’s main rival in Group B will be Colombia. The Colombians are given odds of 6/4 to win the group and considering that they have one of the strongest squads in the tournament, they will probably qualify at least for the quarter-finals.
Their captain, Radamel Falcao, will probably take part in his last Copa America tournament here and will see this as the best opportunity to repay his nation. Other key players such as Cristian Zapata and Juan Cuadrado are also on the wrong side of 30 and they will have similar motives as El Tigre.
However, Colombia’s plans for progression will depend largely on how Paraguay play during the group stage. The Paraguayans have always had the role of dark horses in all international competitions and this one is no different.
Similarly as with Falcao and Colombia, this will probably be Oscar Cardoso’s final Copa America appearance for Paraguay. The 35 year old striker may not have reached the great heights that made Falcao such a popular figure, but he has always been a consistent performer for club and country. Other offensive players such as Oscar Romero and Hernan Perez also instil confidence that this Paraguayan team can do well. They probably won’t win the group for which they are given odds of 8/1, but they can qualify for the next round.
Finally, Qatar was invited together with Japan to take part in this year’s tournament as one of the two best Asian teams. As a result, Qatar is now the biggest underdog in the group and the tournament as a whole and their best hope will be not to embarrass themselves in their maiden appearance. They are given odds of 40/1 to win Group B, but that is simply not going to happen.
The Argentines have won Copa America 14 times and are only one title behind Uruguay. That might change this year however, as Argentina seem to be more motivated than ever to win at least one big trophy under the guidance of their captain and arguably best player of all time, Lionel Messi.
To do this they will have to navigate their Group B matches carefully as they start the tournament with matches against Colombia and Paraguay. Having the toughest game as your first one is something that most teams dread as it means that they can be surprised by how the opponent will line-up.
Furthermore, top teams such as Argentina are always under pressure to deliver good performances and if they lose their first match then questions regarding their ability will immediately be asked. This will in turn result in more pressure on the coach and the players and what seemed like a routine qualification job can turn into an early elimination nightmare.
This is something that Argentinean players should definitely be careful about especially considering the meltdown that they had in last year’s World Cup. The Colombians will definitely play on this card in the first match of the group and if you are hoping for lots of goals here, you will probably be disappointed. This will be a nervy match in which both teams will try not to lose and a goalless 0-0 draw will definitely be on the cards here. Odds of 13/2 for the 0-0 correct score market are more than appealing.
Unlike the first match, the Argentineans should be more confident when it comes to winning the second match against Paraguay. This is because they can still go for a draw against Paraguay and with victory over Qatar they will have minimum 4 or 5 points from their Group B matches and will probably progress to the quarter-finals.
Punters should definitely be careful with Argentina as they have two very tricky starting matches, but after that initial pressure is off, we expect Messi and co to turn performances up a notch and maybe even win this edition of Copa America for Argentina’s best player.
Colombia will have the role of a slight underdog in the match with Argentina and that can help them quite a lot. They are known for performing to the best of their abilities when they are in the role of the underdog and this first match should play to their strengths.
Another thing which betting enthusiasts should know about Colombia, and especially this Colombia team, is that they always start strongly in the group stage, even if that means that their performances start to suffer later on. This is because they utilize a very high tempo type of football which drains the players in latter stages of tournaments.
This means that backing the Colombians to at least draw with Argentina in their first match is a must. The draw outcome is given quite high odds of 21/10 which represent good value for most betting enthusiasts.
Furthermore, this also means that the Colombians will probably go all out in their second match against Qatar and backing them to win and score four or five goals in the process can be a smart move here.
Colombia’s final match against Paraguay will probably be an important match for both of these teams and its outcome will depend largely on how many points both teams will have collected up until that point.
Paraguay’s first match will be against Qatar at the legendary Maracana stadium. They will feel the imperative to win this match and anything other than victory for the Paraguayans here will be equivalent to a major disaster back home.
The Paraguayans are given odds of 7/10 to triumph here, but you can expect a nervy match from them as well. The pressure to defeat the tournament’s biggest underdog will be quite strong and the Paraguayans will have to be able to overcome it to win here.
To make things even more difficult for the Paraguayans, they have only won one from their last seven friendly matches coming into the tournament. That’s far from ideal form coming into a major tournament.
On a more positive note though, Paraguay last lost their first Copa America fixture more than forty years ago in 1975. Just like Colombia, they start tournaments strongly and this can be bad news for Argentina which they face in the second match.
Paraguay’s last match against Colombia will most definitely have some sort of significance for one or both of these nations and it will be up to players like Oscar Cardozo to keep the Paraguayans on par with the strong Colombia side.
The Qataris came into this tournament in supreme form with the 2-0 defeat to Brazil ending a seven game winning run. However, as you can expect, the fierceness of opposition from South American sides and Asian sides fare of different quality and Qatar’s victories came against sides such as the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, North Korea and Lebanon.
Those nations are not the opposition that Qatar are going to face in the 2019 edition of Copa America and there is a very high probability that Gulf country’s first Copa America appearance will end after the first three games.
Players such as Asian Cup top scorer Almoez Ali will have to be followed carefully by opposition defences, but even so, the quality that Qatar possesses is not comparable to the quality that sides such as Argentina and Colombia have.
This means that the Qataris can hope for a positive outcome only in their first match against Paraguay, but even then, they will have to have lots of luck to stay undefeated.