Copa America holders Chile have a lot of work on if they want to retain the title they won in 2015 and in the specially-arranged centenary tournament the following year. Should they make the semi-final, they will in all likelihood face Uruguay, who they lost to just three days ago, and in the final they’d probably have to take on Brazil. That’s a tough enough path, but before they can even look at those games they have to consider how they would get past tonight’s opponents Colombia. Los Cafeteros have arrived at this point with three wins from three pool games, conceding not a single goal along the way.
The action at the Arena Corinthians will make for an intriguing battle – Colombia have for many years threatened to become one of the continent’s superpowers, but have never quite nailed the landing. A solitary Copa, won on home soil in 2001, is presently all they have to show for a history of developing talented players. Pele tipped them to win the World Cup in 1994 – they didn’t progress from the group stage after both Romania and the USA defeated them. Today, they have a side packed with talent, and seem to have cut out the defensive errors which once plagued them. This game will present them with a test, though – Chile want a third-consecutive Copa America, and they aren’t going to go down without a fight.
One goal may be enough for Colombia
Chile will have a job on their hands to get any further in this competition, simply because they’ll need to do something Argentina, Qatar and Paraguay have already tried and failed to do – score against the uncompromising Colombian back line. It’s not an impossible quest, but Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez have very much hit their groove and are at that point where they will take any concession as a personal insult. Chile have not been slouches in front of goal, with Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas each having scored twice in the group stage, but they’ll have their work cut out for them tonight.
Colombia may not cut loose in attack themselves – they’ve scored as many goals in their three group outings as La Roja managed in their opening game against Japan – but if they create chances they’ve got a man who can take them. Duvan Zapata, fresh off a 23-goal season with Atalanta, has carried his goalscoring form into the national shirt, notching the winner against Qatar to add to a finish against Argentina. His three goals in 11 international appearances have all come this month, and Betway have him at 19/10 to add another before June is out. Several top European clubs are interested in making him their player, and he could boost his negotiating position with a goal here.
Caution on both sides may lead to stalemate
Tournament football places a range of demands on a team, and it’s more than possible to shine through the group stages before falling away when it gets to the business end of things. Colombia will need to be aware of this, as three straight wins in non-knockout football will mean nothing if they lose tonight. They have also got to this point without seeing their defence breached, and it will be interesting to see how they would react to going a goal behind. Leading from the front and chasing a game – especially when conceding a second goal could be fatal – are two very different skills.
Colombia will also not have been fooled by Chile’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay. Although it resulted in La Roja finishing second in their group, they rested several players who were at risk of suspension having already secured qualification for this stage. Those players included Jean Beausejour and Mauricio Isla – defensive stalwarts of the 2015 and 2016 wins – and the extra time off may very well tell as this game goes on. In a tight game, that experience can tell. This game could be decided by a single goal on either side, and Paddy Power’s odds of 8/5 on the game featuring fewer than 1.5 goals in the 90 minutes are intriguing.
No runaway winner in Sao Paolo
The factors that come together in this game are fascinating: we have Colombia’s unblemished record so far in the competition against Chile’s experience at this level. The favourites have momentum, but they’ve also got more minutes in their legs, and that could have an influence on the outcome. You could easily construct a narrative for why Colombia will win this match, one making the case for Chile, and still another that says it will go to extra time and even penalties. Yet, that is not the impression you’d take from looking at the bookies’ odds.
If it’s hard to call a match one way or the other, then it makes sense to look at the possibility of a draw. After all, three of the last four matches between these nations have ended that way – with the other won by Chile. Looking at the odds on offer from Coral, it’s a better idea to back the draw at 21/10 than to get on either of the two sides. If the game is level after 90 minutes and extra time is needed, which would suit the younger Colombian line-up, then the Draw bet wins whatever happens next.
Bets of the Day
Zapata scores anytime (Betway, 19/10); Draw (Coral, 21/10); Fewer than 1.5 goals (Paddy Power, 8/5)