Favourites Argentina can reach the final of the 2015 Copa America when they face off against Paraguay in the semi-final in Concepcion on Wednesday (00:30 BST, live on Premier Sports).
Argentina have progressed undefeated through to the final four of the competition. They defeated Uruguay (1-0) and Jamaica (1-0) and drew with Paraguay (2-2) to top Group B, before overcoming Colombia on penalties in their quarter-final tie on Friday.
Gerardo Martino’s side dominated both possession and the shot count (16 to 2) in Vina del Mar and created more than enough chances to see off a surprisingly lacklustre Colombia. But a mix of profligate finishing and superb goalkeeping meant they were unable to do so in 90 minutes. Penalties decided the tie in their favour, 5-4 after two rounds of sudden death.
While they were disappointed not to have finished off the tie in normal time, the quality of Argentina’s performance provided further evidence that they are worthy of their status as bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy. They were excellent from start to finish, moving forward swiftly and incisively with good combination play and off-ball movement throughout the team.
The attacking football practiced by Martino’s side is in stark contrast to the cautious approach of previous coach Alejandro Sabella, who led Argentina to the final of last year’s World Cup in Brazil. With the likes of Lionel Messi (pictured), Sergio Aguero and Javier Pastore at Martino’s disposal, it was only ever likely to be a matter of time before things started to click.
Martino looks to have a full squad available for selection ahead of this match.
Paraguay followed Argentina through from Group B in second, with five points from a 1-0 win over Jamaica and draws against Argentina (2-2) and Uruguay (1-1). They then defeated Brazil on penalties to book a surprise place in the last four.
Ramon Diaz’s side started brightly in Concepcion and were a little unfortunate to then go a goal down against the run of play on the quarter-hour. They came out for the second half determined to get back into the game and did so 15 minutes from time, when Derlis Gonzalez converted from the penalty spot following a hand-ball inside the area.
That took the game to penalties, where Paraguay triumphed 4-3 during the initial five kicks, with the impressive Gonzalez placing home the decisive penalty to see them through. Given that Paraguay finished bottom of the qualification group for the 2014 World Cup, and that Diaz only took charge in December, to make the semi-finals is an excellent achievement.
There has been little particularly complicated about Paraguay’s approach in Chile. They play in a standard 4-4-2 formation, filter most of their attacks down the flanks and defend in a relatively deep block. Ex-Blackburn Rovers man Roque Santa Cruz acts as a back-to-goal focal point up front. Yet this style has proved well-suited to the players at Diaz’s disposal.
Diaz will most probably be without the injured midfielder Nestor Ortigoza (hamstring) for this match. Full-back Miguel Samudio (knock) is likely to come back in the starting XI after missing the quarter-final, while midfielder Richard Ortiz returns from suspension.
Argentina v Paraguay Preview’s Betting Tips
Paraguay came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Argentina in both teams’ opening match of the tournament. Argentina had won four of the previous six encounters, including comfortable 5-2 and 3-1 victories during the qualification process for the last World Cup. Argentina have won 18 and lost none of the 23 previous meetings at the Copa America.
Argentina have gone 22 years without winning a major international trophy but there seems to be a certain degree of confidence within the squad that they are capable of ending that drought in Chile. Their best players all came into the tournament in excellent form and they have improved as a unit as the competition has progressed.
Paraguay have done superbly well to make it through to the last four. And having drawn with Argentina during the group stage, they will certainly have hopes of at least matching them over the 90 minutes. If they are well-organised and take full advantage when they have opportunities to get forward, such a result is not out of the question.
Argentina have, however, been a little unlucky in front of goal so far and their improvement throughout the tournament suggests that if things fall their way they should be capable of securing a relatively comfortable victory in order to progress to the final.
- Back Argentina -1 on an Asian Handicap @ 11/10 with Unibet or BetVictor. Your stake is returned if they win by a single goal, while the bet pays out if they win by a margin of two or more
- Messi has scored just once in his last eight competitive internationals for Argentina but has a good recent record against Paraguay, having scored four times in his last three appearances against them, including one from the penalty spot during the group stage. Back Lionel Messi to score at anytime @ best odds of 6/5 with Unibet.