Copa América Betting: Argentina no sure things against dark horses Venezuela

Lionel Messi of Argentina
Can Lionel Messi and Argentina find their groove?
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Jack Lang thinks the underdogs could shine in Rio, while Colombia are deserved favourites against Chile...

"Could Argentina produce a performance worthy of a semi-final spot, blowing away some of the doubts that surround them. It is possible. But again, we see no reason for them to be such heavy favourites"

Vinotinto can test Messi and co

Venezuela v Argentina
Friday, 20:00
Live on Premier Sports 1

The casual observer might look at this fixture and think there is a clear favourite. Perhaps that observer would already start getting excited about the inevitable Brazil v Argentina semi-final that lies in wait. But while the Albiceleste have the weight of tradition on their side against a Venezuela side that has never won a major title, there is really no reason to assume they will emerge victorious here.

Argentina limped into the quarter-finals, thankful for having been drawn in a fairly weak group. Their sole victory came against a fading Qatar side, and even that was workmanlike rather than convincing.

The system used in that final game - a narrow 4-3-3 with Lionel Messi roaming around the frontline - is likely to be maintained here, but you get the sense Lionel Scaloni is rooting around in the dark, desperately clinging to anything that works. He doesn't know if he'll have a job next month; unless the unthinkable happens, he probably won't.

Scaloni won't be over the moon to be facing Venezuela at the Maracanã. The Vinotinto, after all, condemned his side to a 3-1 win in a friendly earlier this year, and while that was a friendly, seven of the Argentina players likely to start on Friday night started in March, too. Venezuela's swift, direct attacks, led by Salomón Rondón with support from flying wingers Darwin Machís and Jhon Murillo, caused the Albiceleste backline real issues, and any repeat here could be fatal.

Venezuela will know they will have to deal with Lionel Messi, but their backline has been solid thus far - one goal conceded - and in Rafael Dudamel they have a coach who will dispel any notion of inferiority. "We came to this tournament to play six matches," he said this week, which is music to our ears given we recommended backing them in our antepost selections.

Could Argentina produce a performance worthy of a semi-final spot, blowing away some of the doubts that surround them. It is possible. But again, we see no reason for them to be such heavy favourites - 1.618/13 this time - and are thus happy to back an improving, dogged Venezuela on the Asian handicap market.

End of the line for the double winners?

Colombia v Chile
Saturday, 00:00
Live on Premier Sports 1

With time running out at the Maracanã, Chile were sitting pretty at the top of Group C, heading for a very winnable quarter-final meeting with Peru. But a flick of Edinson Cavani's head knocked the air out of their lungs, and their failure to find an equaliser mean they now face a far harder task, against the only team to have won all of their matches so far.

Chile boss Reinaldo Rueda will shoulder his share of the blame for that: he left a number of regular starters out of this side and was punished for it. But the defeat also played into the wider narrative surrounding Chile, who we tipped as possible flops before the tournament began. They may have started off with two wins, but they were against two of the weakest sides in the tournament, and the overall feeling is that this is a team coming to the end of its lifespan at the very top.

Alexis Sanchez Chile Copa America 1280.jpg

La Roja started like a house on fire against Uruguay, with Alexis Sánchez especially busy. But as the game wore on, they looked short on energy - no surprise, really, given that this is a team formed largely of veterans who have barely had a summer off in a decade. Erick Pulgar and Guillermo Maripán have freshened the side up a bit since their last Copa success in 2016, but the hope has always been that the old guard would fire one last time. It could be too much to ask.

Colombia have a far better balance to their squad and will feel they have more to give despite starting with three wins. Carlos Queiroz has made a fine start to life in their dugout, maintaining the attacking flair that the fans demand (all without Juan Fernando Quintero) while engineering the defensive stability for which he's known. They haven't conceded yet, and it's not hard to foresee the excellent centre-back pairing of Yerry Mina and Davinson Sánchez snuffing out Chile's pocket rockets here.

In attack, there's some mystery over whether Radamel Falcao or Duván Zapata will lead the line, but the key player is James Rodríguez, who is having an excellent tournament. He shone against Argentina, completely ran the game against Qatar, and only played half an hour against Paraguay, meaning he will be rested and raring to go here. With him pulling the strings, we expect Los Cafeteros to march on into the last four.

Jack Lang's Copa América PL (after group stage)

Staked: 19pts
Returned: 17.93pts
P/L: -1.07pts

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