You might think that being Brazilian, every day is just one big mardi gras, especially when there’s a major international football tournament on. Their opening game of the 2019 Copa América finished 3-0 in the end, a comfortable win – on paper – over the lowest-ranked team in South America, Bolivia, which is only cause for more celebration, right?
It may not have started with the 7-1 World Cup semi-final trauma in 2014, but by God, the anxiety that now afflicts the nation’s football team and its followers would give Tony Soprano’s shrink a lifetime’s work. The image of carefree, flowing football might still linger for some around the gold-and-blue kits, but they take on a darker tinge under the clouds of past failures.
For the first half in Sao Paulo, you could see the cumulus accumulating once again. Bolivia have little to recommend them as a side and they kind of know it, so they were quite happy to set-up defensively and contained the Seleção’s starting frontline for the first 50 minutes.
Once Phillipe Coutinho broke the deadlock through a VAR-awarded penalty, however, the home supporters could relent in their booing and jeers, and when he added another three minutes later, it was party time once again.
Coach Tite took off all three of his starting frontline, a sign that he’s still searching for the right combination up front, but Coutinho ought to have secured his spot with that brace of goals, so we’d look at him as a potential tin-opener again in this one at 7/2.
The support is expected to be more, well, supportive in Salvador against Venezuela, who secured a creditable draw against dark horses Peru in their opener.
The outsiders, however, rode their luck to that result. The Peruvians had two goals chalked off thanks to VAR interventions to keep the score at nil-nil.
And when technology wasn’t interfering, the old reliable of human flesh in the form of goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez and his last-ditch defenders got in the way of any goal-bound efforts.
Can they summon a similar performance in this game? They’re likely to adopt a similar approach to Brazil’s previous opponents and should see a similar return.
That makes Brazil -1 appeal on the alternative handicap.
While we’d never say relying on Salomon Rondon as your primary attacking threat is a questionable strategy – Rafa Benitez made the most of the former Baggies battering ram with Newcastle last season – it doesn’t fill you with confidence that the underdogs can do much to challenge Brazil here.
And while there’s a bit of a muddle up front with Neymar gone, at the back Brazil are far more set in their ways, with Marquinhos and Thiago Silva as formidable a centre-half pairing as you’d find in international football.
Throw-in Alisson in goal, Felipe Luis and Dani Alves at full-back and Fernandinho plus Casemiro shielding in midfield, and they probably shouldn’t let in a goal all tournament if they fancy it.
They certainly shouldn’t worry too much about Venezuela’s attack, so under 0.5 goals for the away team looks well worth adding at 1/2.
*All odds correct at time of posting