In this final instalment of my series exploring how to bet on South American soccer, I will continue to explore the stylistic, tactical, and cultural diversity seen in South American soccer and draw some conclusions I hope will be valuable for bettors when predicting outcomes of games.
As mentioned in my previous article, each country in this vast region plays the game very differently and by understanding something about the likely approach teams from each major soccer-playing country will take, you should be better prepared when placing bets.
In this article, I will discuss the nation which undoubtedly sets the tone in terms of tactics and soccer culture on the continent. I will then look at an emerging regional force that is using innovative European ideas to get the most from the impressive physical and technical qualities they have always been blessed with. I will then discuss a nation that prides itself on its history of defensive resilience, and finally, I will discuss a consistently competitive power that is in search of an identity.
The very loose conclusions I will draw in this article are intended as a starting point. There are, of course, teams who break their national mould and other important factors that we will explore in the weeks to come. However, I hope that the historical context and insights into the widely shared local expectations I have provided in this series can help inform your South American soccer predictions.
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Argentinian soccer: What should bettors look out for?
Argentina is hugely influential in South America and has had a massive impact on the game across the continent. The chants in stadiums across the Americas are usually adapted from Argentine stadium songs and Argentine coaches are highly sought after. Many dominant tactical ideas in South American soccer originate in Buenos Aires and tactical aspects, such as an obsession with a creative number 10, are influenced by Argentine ideas.
Argentina is seen to have a bit of a smug sense of superiority by many elsewhere on the continent but their clubs and national side also have a prestige, assurance, and presence which has been well earned over the past century. The country has produced dozens of elite-level coaches who have excelled in Europe. It is a country that values ideas and loves to debate soccer.
Argentina is hugely influential in South America and has had a massive impact on the game across the continent.
Tactically, Argentine football has greater variety than other countries on the continent but there are some general concepts that are valued. From Omar Sivori, Ricardo Bochini, and Diego Maradona to Lionel Messi, Pablo Aimar, and Juan Riquelme − an influential, creative, inspirational number 10 has always been key to Argentine soccer identity. In recent years, successful teams such as last year’s Copa Sudamericana finalists Defensa y Justicia have instead focused on wing play but building a team around a creative number 10 continues to be the plan for many teams.
Argentine soccer prides itself on tactical discipline and game management, but this strive for professionalism is often in conflict with the passionate, emotional, and expressive nature of many of the players. Players are perfectly capable of frustrating opponents but also of losing their own heads and sabotaging their own chances. Frustratingly for their continental rivals, it is usually the former. This particular trait of Argentinian soccer lends itself to the yellow and red card markets, which bettors can often take advantage of.
Ecuadorian soccer: Tradition, tactical approach, and style of play
Ecuadorian soccer is extremely interesting and I think on track to be consistently competitive with the biggest club and national sides on the continent.
Ecuador produces some incredible athletes with great instinctive ability and smooth technique. Perhaps at times some of the players who have come through have been a little raw and have taken time to mature in a way that would allow a big European move.
I have always had the sense that a really serious, disciplined, well-managed setup could mould some of these precious youngsters into world-class talents, and now such a setup exists, providing a perfect blueprint for the country and the continent as a whole.
Club soccer in Ecuador
Independiente del Valle made their Ecuadorian top-flight debut in 2010 and by 2016 they were playing in the Copa Libertadores final. In 2018, they were the losing U20 Libertadores finalists, in 2019 they were Copa Sudamericana champions, and in 2020 they won the U20 Copa Libertadores.
The club has brought in Spanish coaches and set up an incredible recruitment and academy system. They have signed South American journeymen and turned them into influential leaders within a carefully drilled, balanced, and disciplined tactical setup. A team with a couple of thousand fans has combined raw Ecuadorian talent, athleticism, and inventive instincts with top-quality facilities and elite, progressive coaching. All these ingredients mean a tiny Ecuadorian club with a limited wage budget beat rich Brazilian giants with over 40 million fans 5-0 and nobody was hugely surprised.
While IDV are the best example, this careful and progressive harnessing of exciting, raw Ecuadorian talent is something evident elsewhere in the league. Ecuador were U20 Sudamericano champions in 2019 playing an assertive and energetic style of football.
Style of play
Ecuadorian teams typically have quick, direct, athletic, and inventive wingers and fullbacks who play a key tactical role. Often Ecuadorian sides play with a lot of pace and energy. While the altitude of Quito is not comparable to La Paz in Bolivia, it does still play an important role and gives the athletic Ecuadorian sides an edge at home.
There have been some very technical Ecuadorian playmakers over the years but this is not seen as essential in Ecuadorian soccer as it continues to be in Colombia and to a lesser degree in Argentina. Ecuadorian sides are physical and assertive but not particularly dirty or cunning. As with Colombia, often Ecuadorian teams have to be better than their opponents to win. Use of historical data such as form and player stats can provide bettors with a useful edge when betting on Ecuadorian soccer.
The new generation of Ecuadorian soccer is bringing in some more patient, tactical, and fluid play to compliment the free-flowing and inventive attacking play. Ecuadorian soccer is very interesting right now and has huge potential. It gets top marks for dribbling and drive, however, it’s said the game is severely lacking in time-wasting, tactical fouls, and diving technique.
Paraguayan soccer: History and modern focus
Paraguay are experts at getting the most from what they have. The national team has been to three World Cups since the turn of the millennium and in 2010 reached the quarter-final stage, giving eventual champions Spain their toughest test.
Miguel Almiron is the big star of the national team right now but he’s not particularly representative of Paraguayan soccer or what they do best. Almiron is slight, quick, tricky, and direct whereas many of his teammates in the national side are big, tough, strong, industrious, and disciplined. One aspect Almiron and almost all Paraguayan stars over the years do share with their more robust compatriots on the continent is a selfless commitment to the cause.
Paraguay have highlighted their ability to compete with continental giants on the biggest stage.
As shown by the successful side of the early 2000s, Paraguayan sides are almost always very difficult to beat. They are usually extremely disciplined defensively and are willing to put their bodies on the line and put the team ahead of any individual glory. That is not to say there haven’t been creative stars leading the counter-attack over the years or very solid technical players but it is a nation that takes great pride in a clean sheet.
Paraguayan stadiums can produce an incredible atmosphere on a big Libertadores night and this plays a pivotal role as the side battle to a big win. Paraguayan sides aren’t known for their diving and often keep their heads better more than their hot-headed rivals. They are tough and uncompromising but usually organised and in control. This is information that could guide bettors to Handicap or Win-to-Nil markets.
Paraguay usually makes the most of what it has and regularly competes with continental giants on the biggest stage.
Peru: A look at the Peruvian national team
Peruvian soccer is a tricky one to get a grip of. There is undoubtedly talent and potential in the country but it is hard to define a clear style. Perhaps this is why club teams have been so underwhelming in recent years.
Peru has been to five World Cups and progressed to the second round twice. The side of the late 1970s and early 1980s captured the imagination of many in Europe with their creative play, exuberant star Teofilo Cubillas, and wonderful white and red shirts (the diagonal red sash on the white shirt is iconic and always a sartorial highlight at any big international competition).
The national team has lacked a little depth and key players are ageing but continue to be competitive and effective. They are well-balanced and Argentine boss Ricardo Gareca knows how to get the most of their key men. Strong and solid defensive midfielders, good pace out wide, organised and consistent, if unspectacular, defenders with evergreen penalty area poacher Paolo Guerrero up top. Nothing too fancy but it’s effective. Gareca can get a 7/10 performance from this group in most games which keeps them competitive and got them to the 2018 World Cup.
Peru: Club soccer
Peruvian club football is not in great shape, however. Giants Alianza Lima were relegated but managed to drag themselves back to the top flight with a spurious legal technicality. They rarely win in the Libertadores and are increasingly expected to sit at the bottom of their groups.
The Peruvian Cup is fascinating, if slightly insane, but probably not conducive to maintaining the level of the top flight. Basically, the competition is open to amateur, semi-professional, and lower league clubs from all over Peru, with the winner jumping from obscurity to the bright lights of the first division. This is obviously massively fun but also rather mad. Clubs often have a few months to transform their squad, staff, and infrastructure to go from competing against part-time neighbourhood clubs to facing continental giants with huge fanbases.
Peru can produce very good players and has some big traditional clubs but few have stepped up to replace the ageing national team stars in recent years. There is some good youth talent coming through but I worry things may get worse before it gets better for this South American soccer force.
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