Best odds: 12/5
Widely considered to be the underdogs of Group B in this year’s Copa America, Paraguay and Qatar open their respective campaigns against each other on Sunday, at Estadio Jornalista Mario Filho, perhaps better known by the name of Maracana.
The South Americans haven’t been on very good form lately. They only managed to win one of their last eight games, and even though that was the last one ahead of this clash, it’s not an encouraging fact. It was a 2-0 win over Guatemala in an international friendly. More notably, the winless run included defeats at the hands of Peru and Mexico, as well as a draw against Honduras.
Head coach Eduardo Berizzo still hasn’t chosen a full-time first-choice goalkeeper for his team, so any one of Alfredo Aguilar, Junior Fernández and Antony Silva could be chosen to start the tournament in goal.
The situation is pretty much the same at left-back, with Santiago Arzamendia and Junior Alonso competing fiercely for the spot over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, Fabian Balbuena and Gustavo Gomez are likely to start in central defence, while the right defensive flank could be covered by either Ivan Piris or Bruno Valdez.
The Middle East side surprised most of the football world at the start of the year when they won the Asian Cup, beating Japan in the final. Their recent form has been much better than that of Paraguay, with Brazil managing to break their winning streak of seven games in a pre-tournament friendly.
Their international success, as well as some big names moving to Qatar in the final years of their careers in recent times, are the results of much investment in the game in the country that will controversially host the 2022 World Cup.
Coach Felix Sanchez is expected to make as few changes to the team that won the Asian Cup as possible. However, there are some players missing from that squad whose absences he will be forced to deal with. Left-back Abdulkareem Salem Al Ali is one of them, and Abdelkarim Hassan is expected to take his place. Right-back Pedro Miguel is also out, and Hamid Ismaeil may get a chance to feature.
Again, though Paraguay are considered favorites to win this game, Qatar aren’t likely to roll over and make it easy for them. Winning the Asian Cup was no accident, and they will likely go all out to prove it. If they are to even hope of progressing from the group also containing Argentina and Colombia, getting something from the opener against Paraguay is imperative.
Best odds: 12/5
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!