Copa America Group B by DamirJ
The tournament will be 45th edition of Copa America since it's inception in 1916. This time, it will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL and CONCACAF as a special edition between the usual four-year cycle and will feature an expanded field of sixteen teams, with all ten teams from CONMEBOL and six teams from CONCACAF. In the Group B we will see Brazilian national team playing as the strongest one, probably Ecuador and Peru fighting for that second place and Haiti as one of the most modest sides in the tournament.
Traditionally, Brazil was never very concerned nor focused for Copa America itself, however whenever they decide to take serious approach the team gets really close to take the title as well. They were the champions of Latin America for eight times, most recently winning it back in 2007 when the tournament was played in Ecuador. In two most recent tournaments, Brazilian national team reached two quarterfinals, both times being eliminated by Paraguay, both times via penalty kicks.
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Internacional, BRA), Diego Alves (Valencia, ESP), Ederson (Sporting Lisbon, POR)
Defenders: Dani Alves (Barcelona, ESP), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo, BRA), Fabinho (Monaco, FRA), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid, ESP), Gil (Shandong Luneng, CHI), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Miranda (Inter Milan, ITA), Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro, BRA)
Midfielders: Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan, CHI), Casemiro (Real Madrid, ESP), Kaka (Orlando City SC, USA), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool, ENG), Elias (Corinthians, BRA), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg, GER), Lucas Lima (Santos, BRA), Rafinha (Barcelona, ESP), Willian (Chelsea, ENG)
Forwards: Gabriel (Santos, BRA), Hulk (Zenit, RUS), Jonas (Benfica, POR).
Brazil is having much more diverse roster this time in comparison to World Cup played in 2014, or Copa America in previous year. However, they will be playing without their biggest star Neymar, who preferred to go to Rio Olympics this Summer. Apart from him, the team will also miss defensive duo of PSG, David Luiz and Thiago Silva, as well as Marcelo from Real Madrid. Douglas Costa got injured in the last moments and will also miss, with thirty-four years old Kaka being invited to replace him. Of course, there are few more players worth reminding who didn't make the list, such as Felipe Anderson, Lucas Moura, Fernandinho or Oscar.
With Neymar absent, Brazil will probably have some problems in attack, as the leader of Barcelona remains permanent danger for any defense. Players like Willian, Coutinho, Kaka, Hulk or Jonas surely have the quality, but the national team coach will need to make a perfect solution and not to rely on their individual quality.
Alisson is sure to start between the posts, with rumors saying that the player agreed for a new contract with Italian side Roma. Miranda and Gil look also sure at the center of defense, while the right back position seems granted for Dani Alves, with Felipe Luiz on the left flank, since he comes from a good season in Atletico Madrid.
Luiz Gustavo is sure in the midfield and he is expected to start many attacks of his team. Manager Dunga will probably opt for 4-1-4-1 formation, with Elias and Renato Augusto as two experienced players in the midfield. First one has never played in Europe, while the other one was a player of Leverkusen for four years (2008-12), but is not playing for the Chinese side Beijing Guoan.
Traditionally, strongest part of their squad is attack, however as for this tournament, it might look that Brazil has lot their glory here. Missing Neymar, Oscar, Firminho probably have downgraded their quality which was always trademark for five-time World champion. Dunga will probably rely mainly on Coutinho and Willian in offense, who had good seasons in Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, as the same time having in-form striker Jonas from Benfica, since the player scored 32 goals in 34 matches played for the Portuguese side.
Manager Carlos Dunga:
This is a second spell for Carlos Dunga as a national team manager of Brazil, as he was the first choice of the federation to lead the team after the World Cup back in 2014. Firstly, he won Copa America in 2007 and Confederations Cup back in 2009 as well, however was removed first time from the position after their moderate performance at the World Cup in 2010.
He got appointed again after their shame in 2014, when the team got destroyed by the Germans 7:1 at home in semifinals, however the trend in last year's Copa America when the team got eliminated in quarter-finals isn't completely showing bright future for the team. In case of another failure here, it's hard to see him continuing at the post of national team manager.
Whenever we are talking about Brazil, probably everyone thinks of a title favorite as well. However, there's no doubt that their national team has lost the glamor and that their glorious times are a bit behind them. Anniversary of Copa America is now the opportunity to make something positive, however the atmosphere around their national team doesn't go in their favor.
As already said, they will be playing with their team leader Neymar, but also without two backbones in the defense, Thiago Silva and David Luiz. At the same time, there are other absent players who would raise their quality. The team somehow has way too many players that lack experience in the biggest tournaments. In short, I believe that the team will progress the group easy or hard, but shouldn't be able to reach the very end. At least, the semi-finals will not be an easy task for them, since they could face either title holder Chile, either hateful Argentina in the quarter-finals. Odds of around 3.60 for Brazil to get eliminated in the semi-finals are looking a bit tempting in my eyes.
As for special player bets, as already said, Benfica's striker Jonas is coming from a great season and could be involved in scoring goals, with the odds probably being valuable since he is priced at 3.50. Seems a bit generous, since Hulk "leads" with 2.70 odds, while it's not a secret that Dunga might not prefer Hulk as the first option.
Ecuador had quite a modest performances so far in Copa America, since the team managed to reach the top four only twice, both times when they organized the tournament. Together with Venezuela, they are the only team that has never won the title. At the same time, in last six appearances in Copa America, they failed even to qualify from the group stage.
Goalkeepers: Maximo Banguera (Barcelona, ECU), Alexander Dominguez (LDU Quito, ECU), Esteban Dreer (Emelec, ECU)
Defenders: Gabriel Achilier (Emelec, ECU), Robert Arboleda (Universidad Católica, ECU), Walter Ayovi (Monterrey, MEX), Frickson Erazo (Atletico Mineiro, BRA), Arturo Mina (Independiente del Valle, ECU), Juan Carlos Paredes ( Watford, ENG), Cristian Ramirez (Ferencvaros, HUN)
Averages: Michael Arroyo (Club America, MEX), Fernando Gaibor (Emelec, ECU), Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas, USA), Pedro Larrea (El Nacional, ECU), Fidel Martínez (Pumas UNAM, MEX), Angel Mena (Emelec, ECU), Jefferson Montero (Swansea, WAL), Christian Noboa (Rostov, RUS), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, ENG)
Forwards: Jaime Ayovi (Godoy Cruz, ARG), Miler Bolanos (Gremio, BRA), Juan Cazares (Atletico Mineiro, BRA), Enner Valencia (West Ham United, ENG).
Absence of Quinonez, Ibarra and Felipe Caicedo are probably important losses for them, however the team still remains with some strong players, especially in attack where their biggest loss comes - absence of Espanyol's striker Caicedo.
National team manager Gustavo Quinteros is usually using 4-4-2 formation, as well as previous national manager, so the players are more than familiar with the tactics they will use. Goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez is sure between the posts, with in-form Gabriel Achilier being surely one of the central backs. Walter Ayovi and Juan Carlos Paredes will be on the flanks, which should add some offensive role to their side, since both players are looking like completely modern full backs.
Antonio Valencia and Cristian Noboa are sure part of their midfield, while younger Carlos Gruezo might be an interesting player to watch in their middle. No doubt that Montero from Swansea and Valencia from Manchester United will be their weapons in attack as well, using mostly their speed.
As for attack, they might be missing Felipe Caicedo who probably was one of most known players of the national team, however they now have Miler Bolanos from Gremio and more importantly, Enner Valencia from West Ham. That attacking duo surely has plenty of potential and might present their strongest part combined with skills of Valencia, Montero or Noboa.
Manager Gustavo Quinteros:
Born in Argentina, Bolivian technician took two title in domestic league of Ecuador with Emelec, back in 2013 and 2014, before he took over the national team in early 2015. Expectations are growing in Ecuador, but the team failed to present themselves positive in previous Copa America. However, he got a vote of confidence and seems to be in a lead for now, as the team remains at the top of the standings for the World Cup qualifiers with a 4-1-1 record, winning over sides like Argentina and Uruguay. On the positive side, he surely has more and more experience, since he served as a national team coach of Bolivia as well, back in 2010-12.
One way or another, it's time for Ecuador slowly to show something more in Copa America, since they ended up in the first phase of last six tournaments. After Brazil, they surely have the best roster in the group and are also aware of it, since the team played nice football in the qualifiers. I believe their coach also learned a lot from previous mistakes, however it will be difficult for them to finish first in the group as their primary goal remains finishing higher than Peru. Odds of around 1.50 for Ecuador to progress look more than decent, while odds of 8.00 or so, for the team to reach the semi-finals might be considered with a small stake.
Ecuador to score over goals (line is 4.5 usually), might be worth considering, since the team has great offensive skills, but could easily end up in a situation that they need a big victory over Haiti in order to match Peru and Brazil.
Peru won the title of Copa America twice, first time it was back in distant 1939 when they were also the hosts of the tournament, while the second time was back in 1975. Since then, they reached the semifinals three times, but were never close to reach the finals. On the bright side, their last two third positions were taken in two most recent Copa America tournaments, losing in semifinals to Uruguay in 2011 and to Chile in 2015.
Goalkeepers: Carlos Caceda (Universitario, PER), Pedro Gallese (Juan Aurich, PER), Diego Penny (Sporting Cristal, PER)
Defenders: Luis Abram (Sporting Cristal, PER), Jair Cespedes (Sporting Cristal, PER), Aldo Corzo (Deportivo Municipal, PER), Christian Ramos (Juan Aurich, PER), Renzo Revoredo (Sporting Cristal, PER), Alberto Rodriguez (Sporting Cristal, PER), Miguel Trauco (Universitario, PER), Yoshimar Yotun (Malmo, SWE),
Midfielders: Armando Alfagme (Deportivo Municipal, PER), Adan Balbin (Universitario, PER), Cristian Benavente (Charleroi, BEL), Luiz da Silva (PSV, NED), Alejandro Hohberg (Universidad Cesar Vallejo, PER), Oscar Vilchez (Alianza lima, PER), Renato Tapia (Feyenoord, NED)
Forwards: Christian Cueva (Toluca, MEX), Andy Polo (Universitario, PER), Edison Flores (Universitario, PER), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo, BRA), Raul Ruidiaz (Universitario, PER).
We will see quite different Peruvian squad in comparison to previous Copa America. One of rare links to previous squad will be striker Paolo Guerrero from Flamengo, who scored twenty-six goals for the national squad, more than all other invited players together. Notable absentees for this year's national team are Juan Manuel Vargas from Betis, Carlos Zambrano (Frankfurt), Jefferson Farfan (Al Jazira) and Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen).
Goalkeepers and defensive lineup were completely chosen from the domestic league only, overall using seventeen out of twenty-three players from Peruvian league only. This means significant lack of quality for them this tournament, with Pedro Gallese being sure as a goalkeeper. Ramos and Rodriguez should be sure as central backs, while midfield lineup should surely consist of twenty years old Renato Tapia from Feyenoord, but also Adan Balbin from Universitario. Christian Cueva and Yoshimar Yotun are also players to watch at.
Raul Ruidiaz from Universitario should also be one of the options in attack, while there's no doubt that the position of a striker will also to be given to their biggest star, Paolo Guerrero who previously played for Bayern Munich, Hamburger and Corinthians before moving to Flamengo.
Manager Ricardo Gareca:
National coach of Peru made his coaching name as a first technician of Velez Sarsfield, since he sat there from 2009 to 2013, winning two championships of Clausura and one Inicial. He is in charge of Peruvian national team since 2015, impressed last year when the team took the third position in Chile, but their biggest target remains returning to World Cup since distant 1982. However, their start is far from encouraging, as the team has 1-1-4 record and is already five points behind the top five.
Peru will be here completely different in comparison to previous Copa America. They are missing big names now and maybe more importantly, lacking experience playing for national team, not only on big tournaments. Just as an example, only four players have scored two goals for the national team, with except of already described striker from Flamengo. Peru is obviously third favorite in this group and odds of around 1.50 for them not to progress to quarter-finals doesn't seem particularly interesting.
Haiti will be playing at Copa America for the first time in history this year. They have qualified for this entry with a 1:0 narrow victory over Trinidad and Tobago and we can't expect much from them here, probably trying in every game with a bit more defensive approach. Their only notable appearance was playing at the World Cup back in 1974 in Germany.
Goalkeepers: Steward Ceus (Minnesota United FC, USA), Luis Valendi Odelus (Aigle Noir, HAI), Johny Placide (Reims, FRA)
Defenders: Jean Sony Alcenat (Voluntari, ROM), Judelin Aveska (Atletico Uruguay, ARG), Alex Christian (Vila Real, POR), Romain Genevois (Nice, FRA), Reginal Goreux (Standard Liege, BEL), Kim Jaggy (Aarau, SUI), Mechack Jerome (Jacksonville Armada, USA), Stephane Lambese (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA)
Midfielders: Jean Marc Alexandre (Fort Lauderdale Strikers, USA), Max Hilaire (Cholet, FRA), Kevin Lafrance (Chrobry Glogow, POL), James Marcelin (Carolina RailHawks, USA), Pascal Millien (Jacksonville Armada, USA), Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City, USA), Sony Norde (Mohun Bagan, IND)
Forwards: Kervens Belfort (1461 Trabzon, TUR), Wilde-Donald Guerrier (Wisla Krakow, POL), Jeff Louis (Caen, FRA), Jean-Eudes Maurice (Sai Gon, VIE), Duckens Nazon (Laval, FRA).
Probably even getting the ticket for the Copa America tournament and exclusion of Trinidad & Tobago alone represents quite a surprise, since the roster of this team surely doesn't sound like one of the strongest in the Caribbean. Perhaps, they are the weakest link in the whole tournament, as six of their players play in France, however without any great success, while five of them are involved in football in the States. A the same time, they have one playing in the domestic league, but also one in fourth division of Argentinian football.
In their only test game before Copa America, the team got defeated by Colombia 3:1, but even that result could be seen as a positive one, since they played with a man less since 39th minute. However, we can't draw right conclusions since the result was 1:1 when time playing with a man less for Haiti is in question. Still, we've seen that the coach prefers 4-3-3 formation with goalkeeper Johnny Placide being sure there with a captain role as well, probably also the best player in the team having played nineteen matches this season for a relegated Ligue 1 side Reims.
Defensive lineup consists of Alcenat, Jerome, Jaggy and Genevois - all four playing in Europe. Trio in midfield should be Hilaire, Marcelin and Lafrance, while Belfort and Guerrier have probably secured their positions in attack.
Manager Patrice Neveu:
Their manager represents a classic student of French footballing school, beginning his coaching career in small French clubs since he retired as a player and he stood there from 1991 to 1998. Switching to a position of national team manager of Niger, but also Guinea, Congo and Mauritania, without much of success, while he started coaching Haiti only last year.
Haiti is surely by far the worst team in the group and most likely, in all Copa America 2016. Their manager surely lacks quality and experience in comparison to the rest of the nations. Haiti to be the lowest scoring side at Copa America with odds around 2.00 might be worth considering.