Copa America Group C: Neymar ban leaves Brazil progress in balance
Neymar’s post-match sending off last time out could cost the country he captains, Brazil, dearly. Over the course of a twisting and turning Copa America Group C, Coral have lengthened the Samba Boys’ odds of winning the competition from 3/1 to now 4/1, behind both hosts Chile as well as tournament favourites Argentina.
Brazil boss Dunga will be under real pressure. This pool looked plain sailing for his Samba stars (odds-on 4/11 favourites to finish in the top two) and fellow World Cup competitors Colombia (4/9), but South America’s fringe nations Peru (6/1 outsiders) and next opponents Venezuela (4/6) have rolled with the punches.
It means all four nations are on three points apiece going into the final group games. When Neymar was last missing from a competitive international, things swiftly went south for Brazil, who were battered 7-1 by Germany in last summer’s World Cup semi-finals.
The Barcelona attacker has scored a third (9) of the Samba Boys’ 27 tournament goals over the last two years (from 2013 Confederations Cup onwards). He will not feature again at this Copa America, however, after being slapped with a four-match ban for his part in an aftermath brawl to the 1-0 defeat by Colombia.
Without their inspirational, talismanic leader, punters may rightly feel an odds-on 1/2 price for the Samba Boys to beat Venezuela is a little short. Neymar notwithstanding, there’s no getting away from the fact Brazil have lost just once to this nation.
A 13/2 price for Venezuela to spring a huge shock is also fanciful but, given how this seemingly straightforward pool has panned out instead to be perilous, a draw at 11/4 cannot be ruled out.
The last two meetings have been 0-0 and, unless someone steps up to take over the Samba Boys scoring burden from Neymar, a repeat result is well worth considering at a superb 17/2.
Just four Brazil players, two being central defenders David Luiz and Thiago Silva, have scored tournament goals on Dunga’s roster besides the banned captain in the last two years.
Those others are former Shakhtar Donetsk teammates Fernandinho (6/1 anytime) and Douglas Costa (shorter at 6/5 in that market after breaking his international duck in the Copa group opener). The latter is a better 9/2 to net last once more.
Samba Boys boss Dunga must now decide whether he goes with the future and Hoffenheim prized asset Roberto Firmino, or brings Robinho back in, who has scored against this opposition before.
Now 31, former Manchester City attacker Robinho is three caps shy of his century, and bagged a brace seven years ago when Brazil last beat Venezuela. Two goals or more again here is long at 9/1, but anytime odds of 7/4 are worth considering as turning to his experience could pay off for punters and coach alike.
Firmino, linked with Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, has an impressive three strikes in eight caps to date since being blooded late last year.
Astute as a false number nine, he is 7/2 to open proceedings against a Venezuela defence, missing familiar face Fernando Amorebieta from Fulham through suspension, that will potentially have the poser of whether to step out to pick Firmino up.
For those wondering what the Samba Boys’ opponents offer going forward, it’s all about key trio Jose Salomon Rondon (10/3 anytime), a Russian title winner with Zenit St Petersburg; former Celtic loanee Miku (4/1) and veteran skipper Juan Arango (5/1), who plays off the front.
Coral betting tip: Nothing in Copa America Group C has followed the script so far, so we like the look of a draw between Brazil, weakened without Neymar, and Venezuela at awesome odds of 11/4.