The Copa America is approaching full swing and let it be known that football is officially back. Well, at least in part. Not too many people have this competition atop their lists of most anticipated tournaments of the footballing calendar, but the soap opera nature of South American football is now being mixed with footballing politics, resulting in Japan and Qatar joining the melting pot.
While all that’s quite heavy, the wad of cash you could pick up might be heavier with this gem of a double on Sunday’s action.
This might seem bizarre. But Paraguay’s national pride has pulled them ahead of so many of their continental rivals in the past, with the majority of these scalps coming in World Cup qualifying campaigns. Without that drive, they’re effectively an amateur side who move the ball at pace.
While nationalism is being rested upon in Asuncion, a footballing revolution is happening in Qatar, whether you agree with the sourcing of it or not. The QFA have pumped hundreds of millions into academy systems so that their national side isn’t just a fifth-choice Spanish lineup, given their largely Spanish coaching staff. Each member of their 23-man squad is playing in Qatar, and while some may view that as a negative, the QSL infrastructure is considerably better than the likes of some established nations like Ireland or Bosnia.
Akram Afif is a Villareal player, the first Qatar-born player to play in La Liga, and his manager in Qatar is none other than Xavi. You had better not underestimate this side, who are well coached and who also won the Asian Cup only a few months ago.
I fancy them to spring an upset against a Paraguay team who boast just two players in their squad who have scored more than three international goals. Just 15 of the 23 have actually scored at all.
Watch this space.
Let’s not complicate this. Only Antonio Valencia plays at a decent level in this squad. Only Enner Valencia has scored more than 11 international goals, and aside from he and Valencia, nobody has scored more than four times at international level.
The side have regressed since the World Cup under the stewardship of Hernan Dario Gomez and they’ve got no real identity about them. Uruguay’s starting XI would probably finish in the top six in the Premier League.
As well as Luis Suarez, they possess Edinson Cavani, Lucas Torreira, the up-and-coming star Rodrigo Bentancur, Diego Godin, Diego Laxalt, Martin Caceres and Cristhian Stuani who netted 19 times in just 32 La Liga appearances this season.
This won’t even be close when the final whistle blows, so 8/11 for a straight win seems quite generous, as the record 15-time winners of the tournament look set to launch a charge at their 16th.
*Prices correct at time of publishing