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Argentina and Brazil need to gain ground in Chile and Uruguay qualifiers

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | March 23, 2016

Although international football in South America is more competitive than ever, you will still expect to see heavyweight duo Argentina and Brazil near the top of the standings, yet both have already dropped lots of points in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s men face a 2015 Copa America final rematch away to Chile on Thursday evening, while late Friday night the Samba Boys will aim to leapfrog Uruguay if they win in Recife.

Chile v Argentina

  • 2018 World Cup qualifier
  • Thursday, March 24th
  • Kick-off: 23:30 GMT
  • Estadio Nacional, Nunoa, Santiago

Are Chile too hot for Messi and co to handle?

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Hosts Chile have only beaten Argentine opposition once in 90 minutes during the last decade, with that Copa America triumph alluded to above coming on penalties.

Martino’s men start as narrow 11/8 favourites to beat the home team in Santiago with three victories in five against them, although there is a tempting 13/8 on offer for a Chilean victory.

Former Valencia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi takes charge of Chile for the first time here, with Jorge Sampaoli having resigned because of a dispute with the nation’s football federation.

Hotshot Higuain more of a threat

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It will be a tough baptism for the Argentine-born naturalised Spaniard in his first international appointment because of in-form Napoli frontman Gonzalo Higuain.

Argentina are an attack-heavy team, but Higuain has scored double what any other Serie A striker has managed in league action this term. He also has four international goals in two starts against Chile.

Higuain is a terrific 13/10 in the anytime market, a 7/1 shot for two or more, and 5/1 to break the deadlock.

Like him, Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored home and away against this opposition during the last World Cup qualifying campaign, and the Barcelona star always commands betting respect.

Messi is much shorter than Higuain anytime at 23/20, but looks decent at 9/2 to net first as he continues to chase out Gabriel Batistuta’s record international tally.

Sanchez and Fernandez must recapture form

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Chilean hopes tend to rest on Arsenal attacker Alexis Sanchez, yet it is Fiorentina’s Matias Fernandez that has a goal against Argentina on his CV.

The latter has just one Serie A goal to his name in Florence under Paulo Sousa this term, though, and is a 4/1 price to repeat netting in this fixture here.

Sanchez, meanwhile, has struck just once in his last 11 outings for the Gunners, so he’s a 23/10 anytime chance in need of rediscovering his best form.

Brazil v Uruguay

  • 2018 World Cup qualifier
  • Saturday, March 26th
  • Kick-off: 00:45 GMT
  • Itaipava Arena, Pernambuco, Recife

Samba Boys have sweet recent record

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Dunga can feel confident of guiding Brazil to a home win over Uruguay because the hosts have won each of the last three head-to-heads, and are on a seven-match unbeaten run against Oscar Tabarez’s team.

That trend is set to continue because La Celeste’s centre back pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez are both injured. The Samba Boys are thus odds-on 4/7 favourites for victory.

Uruguay are 4/1 outsiders and, given their defensive absences, even a draw seems unlikely at 5/2.

Deserved recall for Jonas

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When he left Valencia in the summer of 2014, many thought Jonas Goncalves Oliveira’s international career was over. He’s been so prolific in the Portuguese Primeira Liga for Benfica, however, that a recall following Roberto Firmino’s injury is deserved.

Jonas is a more credible backup striker for Brazil than 35-year-old Ricardo Oliveira. At 19/10 anytime and 11/2 to strike last, Jonas must seize this chance to re-establish himself.

There are usual scoring suspects led by Samba Boys skipper Neymar, 7/2 for two or more, and Uruguay must be careful not to concede free-kicks within the range of Willian.

A bright star in a dismal season for Chelsea, anytime odds of 23/10 on Willian are well worth taking. Creative duo Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Costa, meanwhile, are equal 12/5 chances in that market.

Suarez and Cavani can combine again

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Now he has paid his international penance for that bite on Giorgio Chiellini at the last World Cup, La Celeste’s star striker Luis Suarez is back from a ban and available.

He leads La Liga’s scoring charts ahead of the aforementioned Neymar and Messi. Suarez is a terrific 13/8 anytime price, given he has 43 club goals in as many games this term.

Uruguay strike partner Edinson Cavani comes into the international break off helping PSG to wrap up the Ligue 1 title, and has also netted against Brazil before. He is better at 3/1 anytime.

Taking the 12/5 on offer for a Samba Boys win and both teams scoring represents real value in this clash because of the attacking talent on display.

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Coral’s top tip: Back Brazil to beat Uruguay and both teams score at a tasty 12/5 price.

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