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Commodore's Copa America Outright Picks

Luis Suarez - Uruguay
Luis Suarez will look to add to his prolific goal tally this season in the Copa America.
Hot Damn! The Copa America is coming around again, just 12 short months since Chile humiliated Argentina in front of their own fans and went off with the trophy for the first time in their history. There’s something about this tournament that gets the blood bubbling.

South American football holds a special place in the global game. Players are as capable of moments of beautiful brilliance as they are of scything down an opponent with a blood-thirsty challenge. The passion and commitment of players and fans are never in doubt, even if their intentions are.

It all makes for a thrilling tournament which often throws up a few surprises. This centenary edition – hosted in the United States with a few unfamiliar faces thrown into the mix – should be no different.

Group A

USA 14/10 | Colombia 14/10 | Costa Rica 5/1 | Paraguay 10/1

Hosts USA go into the tournament with huge expectations on their shoulders. Now, Americans aren’t particularly known for their humility, especially when their German manager prophesises a semi-final appearance. Probably not the best of ideas there Jurgen Klinsmann. 

They’ll face stern competition just to make it out of this group, where any side can lay a claim as to why they should be considered favourites. Paraguay have the Copa America pedigree, Colombia possess some of the most exciting talent in world football, while Costa Rica have the ability to surprise as they did at the 2014 World Cup.

Christian Pulisic - USA

The Americans have revitalised an aging squad in recent times, with newcomers like Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood adding some much-needed dynamism to their attack. However, failure at last year’s Gold Cup showed their shortcomings and I don’t see them going further than the quarter-finals on home soil.

Colombia are another that disappointed last summer, failing to build on their 2014 World Cup campaign. They managed just one goal in four games, before going down to Argentina in the quarter-finals. Real Madrid misfit, James Rodriguez will captain the side, with veterans Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez auspicious in their absence.

Costa Rica always have a chance of springing a surprise. That is not to say they can’t push some decent ball. Everton fullback Bryan Oviedo is a very handy footballer, while the likes of Joel Campbell and a reinvigorated Bryan Ruiz should pose enough of a threat up front.

To progress: USA, Costa Rica

Group B

Brazil 3/10 | Ecuador 4/1 | Peru 9/1 | Haiti 66/1

Champions in four of the last seven editions of this tournament, Brazil will once again go in as one of the favourites. This despite resting a number of their key players with an eye to the Olympics later this summer. There will be no Neymar, no Thiago Silva and no David Luiz – the latter may prove more of a blessing than anything else.

They should progress through what is a relatively simple group, but beyond that their prospects look dicey at best. It’s difficult to see where the goals are going to come from. The goalscoring exploits will lie with Hulk, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho – none of whom are particularly prolific.

Philippe Coutinho - Brazil

Favoured to progress alongside Brazil are Ecuador – one of just two CONMEBOL sides not to have won the tournament. However, you underestimate them at your peril. They find themselves level on points at the top of the World Cup qualifying standings, having defeated Uruguay and Argentina (in Buenos Aires). Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia will offer pace out wide, while West Ham striker Enner Valencia will lead the line in the absence of Felipe Caicedo.

There is very little use in looking beyond those two for progression, with Peru missing a number of players who helped them to a third-placed finish last year and Haiti just there to make up the numbers.

To progress: Ecuador, Brazil

Group B

Uruguay 1/1 | Mexico 13/10 | Venezuela 8/1 | Jamaica 16/1

Despite what the betting might suggest, Group C is another that has the ability to spring a surprise or two. Uruguay are understandably favourites, but much of their hopes will depend on the fitness of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

They’ll face stern competition from Mexico, who enter the tournament on an 11-game unbeaten run in competitive games, including eight wins in a row. They are also yet to concede a goal in five games under manager Juan Carlos Osorio. Their side boasts an experienced defensive combination, a hard-working midfield, and an in-form Javier Hernandez up top. Throw in the partisan “home” support and they could well go deep in this year’s competition.

Javier Hernandez - Mexico

Of all the South American teams involved in the Centenario, it’s Venezuela who find themselves in the worst run of form. They head to the United States currently bottom of the World Cup qualifying group, short on confidence and experience. A place in the quarter-finals looks beyond them.

If Suarez’s injury does affect Uruguay’s effectiveness in this tournament, Jamaica would be a good bet to take advantage and possibly nip the second spot in the group. In Wes Morgan, they have a charismatic leader, while veteran striker Giles Barnes has the ability to change the game with a piece of set-piece magic.

To progress: Mexico, Uruguay

Group D

Argentina 6/10 | Chile 15/10 | Panama 20/1 | Bolivia 33/1

Group D is headlined by last year’s finalists and more pressingly perhaps, Lionel Messi’s quest for major international honours. It’s been 23 long years since Argentina won a senior major title. In that time they’ve lost one World Cup final, two Confederations Cup finals and three Copa America finals. Messi played a part in half those defeats.

The Barcelona star shone in last year’s semi-final, notching a hat-trick as Argentina swept aside Paraguay 6-1 to spark scenes of pandemonium in Buenos Aires. The final was a different story.

Lionel Messi - Argentina

Chile were well-drilled and deserved winners, claiming their inaugural Copa America crown. Many of the heroes return this year, but a change in coach has seen them struggle a bit in recent times. With a few players struggling for form, it’s difficult to see them matching their performance from 12 months ago.

Elsewhere in the group, Panama and Bolivia will surely be playing for third place. Bolivia aren’t the same team away from the high-altitude fortress in La Paz, while Panama offer very little in attack. Both will likely be picked apart by superior opposition.

To progress: Argentina, Chile

Value Bet: Ecuador 33/1

If I had to choose an outright winner on form alone, Ecuador would be right up there by my reckoning. This is the finest team they’ve turned out in many a generation, with strength across the park. Their impressive results in World Cup qualifying has seen them climb into the top 12 in the FIFA rankings for the first time in the history. Given their form and the weak group they’re drawn in, a spot in the quarter-finals looks assured. From there, anything is possible.

Best Bet: Uruguay 9/1

The most successful side in the history of this tournament – there is no reason why Uruguay should be 9/1 behind the likes of USA. They sit atop the pile in World Cup qualifying and have in their midst possibly the best striker in the game. He may be injured for the start of the tournament, but it will be a real shock to see them fall at the group stages. Earlier this year they dismantled defending champions Chile 3-0, without the aforementioned Suarez. With Cavani and Suarez returning for the knock-outs, you can expect them to kick on and make a push for the title.

Written by Commodore Vegas

Commodore Vegas - Sports Writer

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