Brazil vs Bolivia: Brazil (-3) – 23/10
This is about as much of a mismatch as you’re likely to see at any major competition.
South America’s size dictates that every country in the continent qualifies automatically for the Copa America, leaving us with games like these; Brazil, host nation and the third best team in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings, taking on lowly Bolivia, who currently occupy 63rd place.
It shouldn’t happen at a major tournament, but that’s a debate for a different day. The only relevant discussion today should be by how much are Brazil going to win by. They will be desperate for victory in the Copa America this year, especially as hosts.
It has been 12 years since they last lifted an international trophy, their second-longest barren spell in the post-war era. Failure to lift this year’s Copa would also represent the first time since the 1940s that Brazil haven’t won a single trophy in a particular decade.
They will also want to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Copa which saw them fail to make it out of the group stages.
They should get their campaign off to a comprehensive start on Saturday morning. In the qualifiers for last year’s World Cup, Brazil thrashed Bolivia 5-0 at home, before drawing 0-0 in La Paz.
However, that’s a bit misleading considering Brazil had already qualified when they met a second time, and that game was also at a stupidly high altitude of 12,000 feet.
Bolivia picked up no points in 2016 tournament, and finished second last in the World Cup qualifiers in 2017. Away from their home venue in La Paz, chances of an upset are exceedingly slim.
Venezuela vs Peru: Peru to win – 11/8
Peru are a plucky nation that have punched well above their weight recently. A semi-final berth in the 2015 Copa America was swiftly qualified by a quarter-final appearance a year later. In 2016, they qualified at Brazil’s expense and were unfortunate to lose out to Colombia on penalties.
They beat reigning Copa America champions Chile to World Cup qualification in Russia and didn’t disgrace themselves whatsoever in a difficult World Cup group. In fact, they were by far the better team when they faced Denmark in the opening game of their campaign and, but for one moment of creativity from Christian Eriksen, probably would have come away with something from the game.
They passed up good chances to draw with eventual champions France before beating Australia 2-0 when already eliminated.
With talisman Paulo Guerrero still wearing the captain’s armband, Peru have a focal point around which they can build.
They come up against a tough Venezuela side who posed them problems in the World Cup qualifiers.
Despite finishing bottom of the group, Venezuela drew home and away with Peru on the latter’s route to Russia and this will not be easy for them.
The combined strength of Brazil and weakness of Bolivia effectively means that the winners of this game should seal second place and guarantee progression to the last eight. Peru, coming off the back of an impressive few years, should just about sneak it.
Argentina vs Colombia: Argentina to win – 6/5
Undoubtedly the biggest game of the weekend sees Lionel Messi renew his personal quest for international silverware against Colombia.
With two of the three third-placed teams qualifying for the last eight, there isn’t an awful lot riding on this game, especially considering Qatar are in their group. Both, however, will want to top the group and avoid a potentially tricky quarter-final opponent.
The Argentines have certainly had the upper hand in the fixture of late, winning both games in qualifying for last year’s World Cup and knocking Colombia out on penalties at the 2015 Copa.
With Messi in their ranks, Argentina have that extra bit of class in an extremely tight game.
Supporters of Cristiano Ronaldo may try to push the narrative that the little magician doesn’t do it on the international stage, but he does have 67 goals for his country and is their record scorer.
Argentina should just about edge this one with Messi pulling the strings.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to kick-off.