If you’re unfamiliar with the Copa America, there’s probably good reason. Not only does it not have a particular life cycle, in so much as the last one was in 2016, and the one prior to that finished 11 months beforehand – but Qatar and Japan are in it.
Maybe its credibility has suffered because of the flimsiness of the invitation process, as well as the usual South American drama associated with it, but look – we’re now entering a period of two months where our only footballing respite is Mick McCarthy’s post-match interviews.
Here’s a rundown of the 12 teams that will be competing to win your attention this summer ahead of Love Island.
Brazil – 13/10
Brazil are one of those nations where football is part of their DNA, but for some reason, they’ve fallen short of the expectations they’ve set for themselves time and time again.
The World Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Germany in 2014 might have been their biggest low, but despite being a round sooner to bow out, losing to Belgium hurt less.
They’ve got the two best goalkeepers in the world at present, but an ageing defensive corps means they’re probably susceptible to the energy on display in these helter-skelter tournaments. This could be a big stage for David Neres, while the inclusions of players like Fagner and Everton make little sense.
Ultimately, they’ll fall short as they failed to name their best squad again – omitting the likes of Danilo, Marcelo, Fabinho, Willian and Lucas Moura.
A collapse in this tournament may well spell the end for Tite as head coach. It’s a competition that they’ve generally done well in, but haven’t gotten past the quarter-final since 2007.
Argentina – 7/2
Aguero. Messi. Dybala.
If you think there’s a better bet in this tournament than Argentina, who had a decent World Cup showing and an unconventionally quiet build-up to this competition, I’d like to hear it.
Angel Di Maria is the best form of his career, while Giovani Lo Celso is the next in the conveyor belt of potentially world-class footballers to come out of the region. Where they struggle is in the centre of the park, so they might lean on the talents of Leandro Paredes who can’t get a game with PSG at the moment.
Juan Foyth and Nicolas Otamendi will ensure they’re solid enough at the back, while Nicolás Tagliafico lit up the Champions League. However, transition into the final third is tricky. If they can bypass the six position, they’ll win this entire thing at a canter.
The only issue is the uncertainty around the long-term prospects of Lionel Scaloni’s future. Although this could be seen as a positive, given that this team perform best when the leash is thrown away.
Uruguay – 6/1
The biggest asset that Uruguay have is guile. But, experience can only get you so far. For Uruguay to get over the top, they’ll need their young performers to embrace this challenge.
Muslera has 100 caps, while Godin and Caceres have been there, worn the t-shirt, handed it back and went again.
But the likes of Laxalt and Gimenez are the future of this bunch, with Rodrigo Bentancur looking like a revelation in Uruguayan terms at Juventus. Nicolas Lodeiro has packed his career in and gone to the US, so we can forget he exists for now, but Matias Vecino and Lucas Torreira can make a splash here.
However, perhaps Gaston Pereiro is the most exciting of the bunch. He’s already netted four times in his seven caps, after a breakout campaign with PSV. Dutch football, eh?
Of course, there’s always Suarez and Cavani to contend with, who have netted 101 international goals between them.
Colombia – 17/2
This would be a shorter price if two things weren’t going against them.
Those being that they’re sh*te, and they’re in a group with Argentina, Paraguay and Qatar.
Now, the second part of that is problematic because Argentina are far better than them; Paraguay beat them in a World Cup qualifier back in October 2017 and Qatar will be the surprise package of the tournament.
There’s a very solid spine to their team, through Ospina, Mina, c and Falcao, but the lack of generic footballing approach costs them. Colombia, above any other side represent the mental nature of South American football.
They could win this tournament or be disgraced. It’s just far more likely to be the latter. Omitting Carlos Bacca might well be a mistake.
Chile – 17/2
It wouldn’t shock me to see Chile win Group C.
However, it would further shock me to see Alexis Sanchez move on the pitch – and without that, these are fish in a barrel for the likes of Uruguay.
They didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup and this might be their lowest low in the last 15 years.
Their price is short because they’ve got high-end performers in Sanchez and Vidal, but this camp isn’t settled.
Eduardo Vargas exited international football last year, so it is hard to see where the goals will come from.
Peru – 25/1
They were a good laugh at the World Cup, weren’t they?
Now, they were a good laugh despite not looking like a cohesive unit. Think of a futsal team who were afforded wide-open spaces and told to run around.
The fact they’re the sixth-favourites to win this says a lot.
Paraguay – 25/1
They always cause bother for the big nations. It’s kind of their MO, and they’re in the most competitive group of the three.
Have they any world-class players? No.
But, their manager Eduardo Berizzo is a Marcelo Bielsa disciple, having worked under him at Chile. He’s also a bit of a hothead, which should prove entertaining at least.
Among the South American tradition of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are Qatar and Japan.
Now, while Japan had a decent showing in the World Cup, Qatar are on their latest crusade to show the world that their World Cup bid was honestly in line with footballing investment due to interest.
Their academy system, Aspire, invests in the best technology and analysis to improve players – and this culminated in a shock Asian Cup win a few months back.
They won’t win the tournament, but led by Akram Afif, they could easily cause an upset or two at big prices.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to kick-off.