The action hots up in the US this week as following the conclusion of the group stages, its knockout time as we move into the quarter final stage of the 2016 Copa America. We have had it all so far, from the brilliance of Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s solo strike against Venezuela, to the controversy of Peru’s “handball” goal which resulted in the early elimination of Brazil. There are no doubt thrills and spills aplenty lying in wait as the competition gets serious, but the question on punters lips is who will lift the Centenario Trophy aloft on 26th June.
Pre-tournament favourites Argentina have been rock solid to date, no other side managed to post a perfect record in the group stages, and La Albiceleste head into their quarter final clash with Venezuela riding a nice wave of momentum. With big guns Messi, Di Maria, Aguero and Lavezzi all contributing in what was a relative stroll through the group stages, Argentina boast a multitude of threats that few of their rivals here can match. They may find Venezuela tough to break down in their quarter final but should ultimately possess too much firepower against a team who struggle for goals. Lying in wait in the semis will be either the USA or Ecuador.
Ecuador battered Haiti in the Group stages, but then so did everyone else, other than that they couldn’t break down a weak Brazil side and only managed a draw against a pretty average Peru. The USA could be more dangerous with the fans behind them but were poor against Columbia and only just limped past an underwhelming Paraguay outfit. All in all the coast looks clear for an Argentinian appearance in the final.
In the other half of the draw we expect Mexico to come out ahead of defending champions Chile who are heavily reliant on Alexis Sanchez and don’t have the backing of home support this time around. La Roja are also yet to fully recover from the shock departure of influential manager Jorge Sampaoli at the beginning of the year. Columbia meanwhile aren’t the side they were two years ago and Peru have done well to progress this far having been decimated by injuries and absentees.
Mexico themselves are going great guns at present having blasted the opposition away in their four World Cup qualifiers prior to this tournament. They began their Copa America in similar vein in comfortably dispatching Uruguay and Jamaica before taking their foot off the gas against Venezuela, when qualification was already assured. This squad had a taste for tournament success when claiming the Gold Cup in 2015 and will be hungry for more. The vastly experienced Rafael Marquez provides the defensive rock to a side blessed with good invention and counterattacking threat.
It’s an Argentina vs Mexico final for us then and with the Argentinians trading at around the 1.73 mark the value must lie with Mexico at 7.5. Recent tournament finals have brought nothing but pain for Lionel Messi and co. with the bitter blow of an extra time loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final being followed up by a heart-breaking penalty defeat to Chile in this completion last year. There could be similar to come here and we are backing Mexico for glory.