The Copa America kicks off this year with hosts Brazil taking on fellow Group A contenders Bolivia at the Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo. This is obviously a huge match for both teams, however Brazil will perhaps be feeling a little more pressure on their shoulders with the weight of an entire nation expecting them to lift that coveted trophy once more. Even without their talisman Neymar, this should be a walk in the park for Brazil, but Bolivia will have their own belief and desire to shock the world in this one.
Having played against one another three times since 2013 in a friendly and World Cup qualification fixtures, these two should know one another relatively well. Last time the pair met, neither team could find the net in a surprise goalless stalemate as Bolivia managed to keep Brazil’s superstars from getting on the scoresheet. Prior to that was more of a representation of what this match is expected to be though, with Brazil amassing nine goals in the two preceding games, winning 5-0 and 0-4 respectively.
After the major disappointment of suffering elimination from last summer’s World Cup at the quarter final stage at the hands of Belgium, Brazil have since gone on a tremendous unbeaten run of ten matches, nine of which they have won. It looks as though the pain of that tournament has pushed the team even further in terms of performance, however they were dealt a huge blow in their penultimate preparation game for the Copa America against Qatar over a week ago, when Neymar had to leave the pitch with what has turned out to be a serious injury to his ankle. In spite of that, the host nation for this competition still demolished Honduras by seven goals to nil three days later and have more or less confirmed themselves as favourites to go on and take home the gold medals.
Bolivia’s form since September could not be much more different to Brazil’s if they tried. Winless in seven outings, losing four and drawing three as well as failing to net a single goal in five of those affairs speaks volumes about where Bolivia are at right now. Three draws on the bounce against UAE, Iraq and Nicaragua may have provided the squad with a little more confidence at the time, but upon their trip to South Korea they were put to the sword by a late Chung-Yong Lee strike, and when visiting Japan it was Shoya Nakajima who sealed the win for his side. Against France earlier this month their hopes of shocking the world were dashed after just five minutes when Thomas Lemar opened the scoring, and Antoine Griezmann bagged the second shortly before the half time interval. Nothing if expected of Bolivia other than the fact that they will give it everything they’ve got, which could end up working in their favour.
The news of Neymar’s absence from the Copa America spread around the world like wildfire, and now the burden of being the main man falls on not one, not two, not three players, but the entire team are expected to perform to the absolute highest standard. Defender Fagner and midfielder Arthur will not be available for selection for manager Tite as they are out with injuries, but Roberto Firmino recovered from his issue just in time to take part in the group stage of the tournament. Brazil will probably line up with Firmino or Jesus at the top and Richarlison accompanying Philippe Coutinho and David Neres in attacking midfield.
No injuries in the Bolivia camp means that Eduardo Villegas will have an entire squad to pick from in this matchup, a huge boost going into the affair as he will need everyone on their toes and fired up to take even a point. Each of Bolivia’s final three friendlies going into this tournament saw them on the wrong end of the scoreline, and in all of those games they started with a different formation. Here, we can’t see them doing anything other than trying to create a blockade for the swift Brazilian attackers and hoping to hit on the break. Due to this, we expect that Bolivia will begin in a 4-4-1-1, similar to the fixture in France, and keep most men at the edge of their own box.
In the past, this fixture has predominantly been high scoring and with Brazil coming out victorious by quite some margin. The attacking force of Brazil is such that their forwards price tags in the current market are some of the highest around, and with that threat up front it’s difficult to see anything other than a large margin of victory for Brazil here. With Skybet, you can get odds of 10/1 for Brazil to run out 5-0 victors, and that’s something that appears relatively likely at this point. If you’d rather, you can find 3/1 for over 4.5 goals in the ninety minutes, which we also greatly recommend seeing as Bolivia’s defense doesn’t look particularly robust.
It’s looking more and more likely that Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino will be preferred by Tite over Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus. Following the World Cup, many viewers let their feelings known that they believed Jesus did not fit the system as impressively when compared to the Champions League winner of this year. “Bobby” is 14/5 to score first or last with Skybet, and we think you should get on that right away.
Brazil to win 5-0 at 10/1
Over 4.5 goals at 3/1
Firmino to score first or last at 14/5