In case you are unfamiliar with expected goals (xG), in layman terms it is a better stat than ‘shots’ for example, as it takes into account many different variables to quantify how good a chance was. So a one-on-one has a higher expected goals xG than a 30-yard pot-shot. Simple, right?
People use it because it provides a better insight into the quality of chances a team creates, and in terms of Neymar <em>(below)</em>, as an example, his xG shows just how many goals Brazil could be missing out on now he’s injured. So here goes for the 46th Copa América…
It gets underway in Brazil this Saturday, with 12 teams looking to be crowned the best team in South America – including Japan and Qatar.
Yeah, geography’s not their strong point.
Anyway, Infogol has developed a super sophisticated model using expected goals, world rankings, recent results and what time each team’s best player goes to bed at – okay, we made that up – to estimate team probabilities for the tournament, meaning we can find a few value bets ahead of the kick-off.
As you’d expect, Brazil are strong favourites (1/6) to win the group, rated at 88% by our system. That’s despite the recent blow of losing star player Neymar through injury. While he’s overrated according to expected goals, he was Brazil’s standout player at last year’s World Cup, racking up the most expected goal involvement (xGI) in the entire tournament with 6.21 because he created chances for others and himself.
He will be missed, but the Brazil squad still possesses a host of top quality players in attack, with players like Willian, Phillipe Coutinho, Lucas Paquetá, David Neres and Richarlison.
Peru are rated as next best in Group A (7/1). Led by veteran captain Paolo Guerrero, they showed signs of what they are capable of at the 2018 World Cup, where their displays and ball movement were good, but they lacked a cutting edge.
Venezuela (11/1) – whose squad is much younger than in previous tournaments – are led by Salomón Rondón, who warmed up for this Copa América by scoring twice in a 3-0 win over the USA. Bolivia are rated as the worst team in the group (35/1) and are without their huge altitude advantage in this tournament.
Peru have a 73% chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds, followed by Venezuela and Bolivia.
After their poor showing in the 2018 World Cup, Argentina will be desperate to win the Copa América for the first time since 1993 – they have finished runners-up in four of the last five editions!
Manager Lionel Scaloni has a contract that runs until the end of the Copa, so he will be looking to impress, and he has managed to convince Lionel Messi to play in this tournament, something he hadn’t planned on doing earlier in the year. As always, Argentina’s squad is full of quality attacking players like Dybala, Messi, Agüero, Lo Celso and Di María, but defensively they are still lacking.
While Argentina are favourites to win Group B, Colombia could spring a surprise at 17/10 as they look to improve on their third-place finish in the last edition of the Copa. Now led by Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant Carlos Queiroz, who coached Iran at the 2018 World Cup, they have a squad full of quality in every position, and shouldn’t be underestimated in Brazil.
Argentina are rightly favourites to win the group, and are priced correctly at 4/6 (60%) to do so according to the Infogol model. Colombia have a 33% chance of causing an upset, with the two stronger sides fully expected to make the knockout rounds (ARG – 98%, COL – 90%).
Uruguay are favoured to win Group C. That isn’t a surprise when you take a look at their players, and their record in recent tournaments. They finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup, won the 2011 Copa América, and made it to the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup (beaten by eventual winners France).
Along with seasoned internationals like Edinson Cavani, Luis Suárez and Diego Godín, Uruguay have added some seriously good young players to their ranks, with the standouts being José Giménez, Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Torreira, Frederico Valverde and Maxi Gómez. They pose a real threat in Brazil.
Chile’s key players Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez are both past their best, but the side can still grind out results, and they topped their group in 2015 (and were second only to a strong Argentina team a year later).
Ecuador’s ageing side is led by Antonio Valencia, who has hardly played for Manchester United this season, while contrastingly Japan have named a very young and inexperienced squad – including 17 uncapped players – for this tournament, seeing it as good practice for next year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
Uruguay are rightly favourites to win the group, but don’t warrant being odds-on shots (10/11 – 52%), with a small amount of value instead lying with Chile to finish top (IG 37%, Bookies 36%).
Best Group Bet:
As stated earlier, Brazil are strong favourites to win the Copa, with the bookies giving them a 50% (Evens) chance of doing so, but that is slightly too short according to the Infogol model (39.9% – around 6/4).
A Lionel Messi-led Argentina are the bookies’ and Infogol’s, second favourites to win the title, but are too short at 7/2 (22.2%) to lift the trophy, with Infogol making them closer to 6/1 shots (13.7%).
The model suggests that the best value bet is Chile, priced at 14/1, who have a 10.5% chance – 17/2 – according to our model. As you’d expect, they will need to cause a few upsets on their way to success, though they should be helped by the ‘no extra-time’ rule changes.
Paraguay and Peru are both available at 25/1, though the former should be closer to 110/1 (0.9%) according to the model, and the latter closer to 17/1 (5.6%), so Peru are worth an each-way punt at longer odds.
Best Outright Bets:
With Neymar absent, Lionel Messi has been installed as favourite to finish the 2019 Copa América as top goalscorer, which isn’t a huge surprise given that he is the best player at the tournament.
The Barcelona forward averaged 0.79 xG every 90 minutes and 1.27 xGI per 90 over the 2018/19 season, and though he could be the creator in this very offensive Argentina side, he will more than likely take every penalty and every free-kick, so should get plenty of opportunities.
Gabriel Jesus is second favourite to finish top scorer, but it is reported that Brazil coach Tite is still undecided who is to be his regular number nine, with Roberto Firmino rivalling the City star for that spot.
The rumours doing the rounds are that it will be Firmino that gets the nod, so the 11/1 on offer for him looks much better value than the 11/2 about Jesus, and given that Brazil are expected to win their group comfortably, they could well rack up the goals.
Unsurprisingly, names like Edinson Cavani, Luis Suárez and Sergio Agüero are also at the head of the market, but with Peru fancied to have a good Copa, their star striker and captain Paolo Guerrero makes some appeal at a bigger price (14/1).
Best Scorer Bets:
*All odds correct at time of posting