Japan and Chile meet for their opening matches of this year’s Copa America at the Estadio Morumbi in Sao Paulo on Monday night, with both teams hoping to kick off their tournament campaigns in style. Group C is arguably one of the more difficult groups to call, although many would have Uruguay as clear favourites to finish at the summit of the standings come matchday three. Victory for either of these two would see them go level on points with Oscar Tabarez’s men, however they have a mountain to climb in terms of goal difference following Ecuador’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the Group C table toppers.
Japan will be quietly confident in their ability to come out on top in not only this fixture, but also the group. After a rather frustrating pair of results in February and March against Qatar and Colombia, in which they were beaten, the Japanese have since gotten back on their feet and are on track yet again. That loss versus Qatar in the Asian Cup final would have been extremely hard to come back from, but after the 1-0 defeat by Colombia they went on to see of Bolivia in a home friendly thanks to a late Shoya Nakajima strike, the only goal of the tie. Upon the visit of Trinidad and Tobago, Japan were held to a surprise stalemate where neither side could take the initiative in front of a crowd of almost 40,000. Their final warm up game for the Copa America came against El Salvador, who they beat comfortably by two goals to nil through a brace from Kensuke Nagai in the first half, and the second half was disrupted by mass changes to both squads. These next ninety minutes could provide the perfect platform for this exciting Japan team to catapult themselves into Copa America history.
The current holders of this competition’s trophy, Chile, come into this one off the back of a few turbulent performances and results. Their victory in 2016 was fantastic as they put Lionel Messi’s Argentina to the sword on penalties, eventually winning 4-2 in the shoot-out, however many expect that they will fall short of that achievement this summer. Two wins in five outings backs up that idea, with the Chileans suffering losses at the hands of Costa Rica by three goals to two and away to Mexico, finishing 3-1. The victories haven’t come against top class opposition either, with no disrespect to Honduras or Haiti, they certainly didn’t serve up any kind of realistic challenge to Chile. When hosting Honduras, Chile ran out 4-1 victors helped by an Arturo Vidal first half brace, which was added to by Alexis Sanches and Nicolas Castillo. A stalemate in the US proved to be something of a disappointment too due to the state of men’s football in the States right now, with Oscar Opazo rescuing his side from what would have been an embarrassing defeat. This group will by no means be a walk in the park for Chile, but they should still take confidence from the fact that they have been here before and done it all just three years ago.
In the two matches that preceded the Copa America, Japan lined up with three at the back and four in midfield, with the attacking formation changing. Against Trinidad & Tobago, they began in a 3-4-3 with Doan, Osako and Nakajima leading the line up front, however in the affair with El Salvador they opted for 3-4-2-1 with Doan and Minamino sitting behind Nagai in the number nine spot. Here, we can see them utilizing the three at the back again as there is no real reason to change anything after two successive clean sheets. Positively, from coach Hajime Moriyasu’s point of view, they have no injury concerns going into this clash.
Chile’s line ups have been rather more unorthodox over recent weeks, with little to nothing remaining the same from one game to the next. In the draw with USA, Chile started in a 5-3-2 or 3-2-3-1, depending on how you would prefer to look at it, with Opazo and Isla running up and down either wing alongside a solid midfield of Aranguiz, Pavez and Vidal. When playing against Haiti, it was 4-2-3-1 that was used to good effect. Isla played as more of a right back and Opazo was replaced by Beausejour, while Aranguiz played a deeper role with Vidal venturing into attack. On Tuesday, we can see Chile utilizing a 4-2-3-1 with Vargas, Sanchez and Vidal behind Jose Fuenzalida, whilst Gary Medel and Guillermo Maripan sit as centre backs. The sole injury concern in Gonzalo Jara.
Neither of these two have been in particularly scintillating form since the turn of the year, and goals have been something of a rarity. Despite Japan keeping three clean sheets on the bounce, they have not met with any of the world’s best firepower by any means and for that reason we can see both teams conceding at least one goal here. With Skybet, you can get BTTS at 5/4, and we more than recommend it with the pair both capable of scoring, but also with relatively untested back lines. It won’t be a high scoring thriller though, but we can see a shock on the cards with Japan coming out on top, especially after their impressive lead up to this Copa America. Because of this, we’re going for Japan to earn all three points at 11/2 with Skybet in a result that will surprise virtually all of world football.
Alexis Sanchez will be a man on a mission to not only bring his nation to glory once again, but he also has his own personal goals. After a disappointing club season with Manchester United, the former Arsenal forward is actually playing for his future at the top level of club football during this tournament and a goal in his sides’ opening encounter would put him on the right path to doing just that. Skybet have the forward to score anytime at decent odds of 6/4.
BTTS, yes @ 5/4
Japan to win @ 11/2
Sanchez to score anytime @ 6/4