Sunday 13 June, 11.00pm
Brazil have belatedly found themselves as hosts of the 2021 Copa America and Dan Fitch is backing the reigning champions to hold onto their crown...
"Over the last year, the South American nations have been playing each other in World Cup qualifiers and Brazil have been the only team to have really excelled."
After a delay of a year, the Copa America is finally upon us. Initially due to take place last summer, the tournament was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, it finally goes ahead and unlike the decision makers at UEFA, the realists at CONMEBOL have wisely accepted that time marches on, rebranding the competition as '2021 Copa America'.
There has also been a change of host. Colombia and Argentina were meant to have shared this responsibility, but both have stepped down due to the continued spread of COVID-19. Brazil have taken their place as hosts, but not without controversy.
Brazil has recorded the second highest number of coronavirus related deaths in the world and numbers are still soaring. The national team are said to be against the decision to host the event, but will not boycott it, with matches due to be played in empty stadiums, without fans.
Favourites and holders now have home advantage
The Brazil squad might not be happy to be hosting the Copa America, but it's added to their list of advantages as they look to retain the title that they won in 2019.
Brazil are the 2.245/4 favourites to win the 2021 Copa America and as short a price as that is for a team to win an international tournament, it still looks like decent value. Over the last year, the South American nations have been playing each other in World Cup qualifiers and Brazil have been the only team to have really excelled.
They've won all six of their qualifiers, keeping clean sheets in five of them. With a strong defensive spine running through the team and a group of attackers that combine searing pace with real quality, Brazil have by far the most cohesive team unit.
Argentina are the second favourites at 3.412/5. They are the only other side to be unbeaten in World Cup qualifying (P6 W3 D3), but their price seems short for a nation that have not won the Copa America since 1993. As has often been the case in recent years, their squad looks to be lacking the required defensive and midfield quality, to complement their riches in attack. As ever, the hopes of a nation will rest upon Lionel Messi.
Uruguay can challenge Argentina in Group A
There's no guarantee that Argentina will even win their group. They have been drawn in Group A alongside the 9.617/2 third favourites Uruguay and the fifth favourites Chile, who are 20.019/1 to win the tournament. Bolivia and Paraguay complete the group.
Argentina drew at home to Chile in World Cup qualifying only last week and have shown enough frailties in that campaign to suggest that the Group A winner market will be competitive. Again, there's not much value in backing Argentina at 1.674/6, with Uruguay looking a better bet at 3.613/5, despite coming into the tournament in uninspiring form.
Brazil are 1.330/100 to win Group B and should walk it. They are up against the tournament's fourth favourites Colombia, who are priced at 12.011/1 to win the competition, along with Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.
No argument against Neymar
Neymar is the favourite to be top scorer at the 2021 Copa America at 4.03/1 and it's hard to argue with this verdict. Brazil should play the maximum number of games and Neymar comes into the tournament in good form, having scored five goals in six World Cup qualifiers.
Messi is second favourite at 5.04/1, but has only found the net twice in his last six appearances for Argentina. Uruguay's Luis Suarez is the third favourite and a better bet at 7.06/1. He's scored four goals in World Cup qualifying and has just fired Atletico Madrid to a La Liga title. His Uruguay teammate Edison Cavani has also proved that he's still a dangerous player at Manchester United and is 15.014/1 to finish as top scorer.
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Read in-depth verdicts from our expert betting writers in our mega team-by-team guide
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|Angel Di Maria|
|Luis Suárez (Colombia)|