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Copa America 2021: Group B predictions
Pinnacle projected points
Copa America 2021: Group B schedule
June 13: Brazil vs. Venezuela, Colombia vs. Ecuador
June 17: Colombia vs. Venezuela, Peru vs. Brazil
June 20: Colombia vs. Peru, Venezuela vs. Ecuador
June 23: Colombia vs. Brazil, Ecuador vs. Peru
June 27: Ecuador vs. Brazil, Venezuela vs. Peru
Manager: Adenor Leonardo Bacchi (Tite)
Key player: Neymar
FIFA World Ranking (May 2021): 3rd
Recent performances: 2018 World Cup - Quarter-finals, 2019 Copa America - Winners
Odds to win Group B: 1.625*
Odds to win Copa America 2021: 3.000*
Brazil generally set themselves up in a 4-3-3 system with Casemiro in front of the defence and the fullbacks pushing on in classic Brazilian style. That system can shift to a 4-2-3-1 if they want to play one of the central midfielders in a more advanced role.
Neymar often operates from the left but has the freedom to drift inside to pick up the ball and work openings. The central defensive pairing of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos is very strong and the pair know each other well.
Brazil has an incredible amount of quality and depth in wide forward areas with exciting new teenage wonderkids breaking through every couple of months in the domestic league.
Where Brazil are still not settled is in the central striker position. Manager Tite would ideally like to have a physical focal point for his dynamic support strikers to play off. He has tried all of Richarlison, Roberto Firmino, and Gabriel Jesus, and none have quite matched his expectations. Gabriel Barbosa’s impressive league form has earned himself a recall and while he has excellent movement and finishing, his overall contribution may not be sufficient for Tite.
Brazil have struggled to break down organised, compact defences at times but a returning Neymar should help work the openings. The squad of players they have is incredibly strong and they have multiple match-winners to call upon in each position.
Neymar is always going to be the headline attraction for Brazil and he will be key for Tite. Marquinhos is also now one of the very best central defenders in world football. The tenacious, quick PSG defensive leader will be vital in providing cover when the fullbacks push on. The solid protection will be supplemented by the always-reliable and energetic Casemiro working hard in front.
The biggest decision for Tite will be how he lines up his attacking three. It is not yet clear who he sees as his most natural fit in the central striker role, Firmino has been used most recently but hasn’t reproduced his best Liverpool form. The Brazil boss will also have to decide if he plays with two defensive midfielders and a more advanced playmaker or a central three with one or two box-to-box options who are given the freedom to break forward when the opportunity arises.
What does the country expect?
Brazil feel they are the strongest national team in South America right now and with good reason, and their fans will be expecting them to retain the Copa America.
Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
Key player: James Rodriguez
FIFA World Ranking (May 2021): 15th
Recent performances: 2018 World Cup - Round of 16, 2019 Copa America - Quarter-finals
Odds to win Group B: 3.500*
Odds to win Copa America 2021: 7.000*
Former Colombia manager Jose Pekerman had always focused on wing play and overlapping fullbacks. Colombia traditionally play with two sitting midfielders and get the fullbacks high in order to stretch the play while deploying either a front two or James Rodriguez behind a focal-point striker in attack. For the national team, Radamel Falcao has always been most effective with a strike partner to occupy the opposition defenders, thereby allowing him to find space and focus his work in the area.
At the last Copa America under Carlos Queiroz, Colombia made some significant tactical changes. They switched to a very aggressive and high-energy 4-3-3 system. To provide balance, Queiroz often opted for slightly more conservative and defensively effective fullbacks such as Stefan Medina and William Tesillo, both of whom are equally as comfortable as central defenders. Cuadrado played as one of the three central midfielders but would join the attacking press and frequently overlap on the right.
Duvan Zapata is now undoubtedly the key man in the attack for Colombia but Falcao brings a lot of history and prestige.
Queiroz required a huge amount of work and tactical discipline from the front three and this was not a system well suited to Colombia’s more creative, inventive, and expressive players. When results fell off a cliff, the big players were quickly disillusioned with the project.
Current manager Reinaldo Rueda is hugely popular in Colombia. He is widely liked and respected by opposition managers, the press, and the players. He won the 2016 Copa Libertadores with a very attractive style of play, which featured a number of key starters such as Mateus Uribe and Davinson Sanchez. He also displayed great dignity and compassion at a difficult time following the tragic Chapecoense air disaster in Medellin.
Rueda is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 he has deployed to great success and that the national side is comfortable with. This is a system that perfectly suits James in the number 10 role, opens the possibility for attacking fullbacks to push on, uses Duvan Zapata as the target man, and allows the dangerous wide forwards to stay high.
I imagine tactically that Colombia will return to the style of play that brought such great success under Pekerman, featuring less aggressive pressing and a focus on sharp passing to stretch the play and isolate opposition fullbacks with two-against-one situations.
I think it is highly likely that Rueda will look to replicate the tactical approach and unity Pekerman implemented during what was Colombia’s most successful period in their history. This will be great news for James, who is still fundamental to how Colombia plays. The classy playmaker should have greater freedom with protection from two players sitting behind him and plenty of options for the diagonal passes that have been so important for him at Everton this season.
Cuadrado was more comfortable with the dynamic approach implemented under Queiroz but will likely return to the right-hand side, either as a winger or perhaps as an attacking fullback, the role he plays for Juventus.
Duvan Zapata is far more comfortable playing as the central striker than Falcao and for me would be a perfect fit and fundamental to the system as a lone striker. Luis Muriel works very well with Zapata but will perhaps play from the left-wing, the position he has most often occupied for Colombia.
Wilmar Barrios is not one of Colombia’s big names but he is fundamental to everything Colombia does and a top defensive midfielder. Barrios covers a lot of ground, reads the game well, and importantly is very effective at receiving and moving the ball under pressure.
There are a few big selection decisions for Rueda to make. Firstly, what does the boss want from his fullbacks? Does he want to look at the likes of Frank Fabra and Santiago Arias to go up and down the pitch all through the game posing an attacking threat with their pace or does he want more measured, collective fullbacks such as Stefan Medina who will hold their position more?
In midfield, the big question is who should partner Wilmar Barrios in front of the defence. Barrios is a deep ball-winning anchorman and it will be interesting to see who Rueda chooses to join him in the middle.
There are plenty of options. Jefferson Lerma can complement Barrios playing a similar defensive role, Jorman Campuzano is a hard-working, smart, and consistent passer, Mateus Uribe can play as a technical mixed midfielder, Victor Cantillo is a superb creative passer who retains the ball well and Cuadrado could bring dynamism to the role.
Finally, what do you do with Falcao? For me, Duvan Zapata is now undoubtedly the key man in the attack for Colombia, but Falcao brings a lot of history and prestige. Rueda will need to keep Falcao onboard and ensure he is happy to provide a threat off the bench. The experienced striker is the model professional and I don’t foresee a problem, but this is a big call for the new manager.
What does the country expect?
On paper, Colombia are now amongst the top two or three sides in South America. The fan's expectations have increased massively since their impressive performance at the 2016 Copa America, but there is still the sense that in the biggest games the players struggle with the pressure.
The feeling is that Colombia could win the Copa America and they have the quality to do so, although doubts remain over tactical uncertainty, game management, and the ability to deal with the pressure.
Manager: Gustavo Alfaro
Key player: Moises Caicedo
FIFA World Ranking (May 2021): 53rd
Recent performances: 2018 World Cup - Did not qualify, 2019 Copa America - Group stage
Odds to win Group B: 13.000*
Odds to win Copa America 2021: 51.000*
After Ecuadorian efforts to change direction with some fresh European ideas didn’t come to fruition, manager Gustavo Alfaro seemed quite a safe option. Their subsequent results have shown that a focus on organisation and building a more solid base has in no way compromised their attacking potential. The energy Ecuador show in their pressing and the speed at which they can transition is frightening and Alfaro’s experience of improving sides defensively should make them even stronger in time.
Ecuador's overlapping fullbacks are key, while Sao Paulo’s Robert Arboleda is a rock at the heart of the defence.
Ecuador typically utilise a 4-2-3-1 system with a lot of pace out wide and Michael Estrada providing a dynamic, energetic focal point for a very fluid attack. The fullbacks push on with Genk’s Angelo Preciado overlapping on the right and Villarreal’s Pervis Estupinan on the left. The pace and energy provided from the fullbacks mean Ecuador often look for inverted wide forwards or wide playmakers to drift inside to support Estrada.
It is a really dynamic and fluid attack, while Moises Caicedo, who recently joined Brighton, has been incredible in front of the defence. Ecuador cannot call upon big names like their rivals but do possess a combination of undervalued and experienced players with exciting youngsters, as well as a great collective spirit that makes them very effective.
Moises Caicedo has been a revelation in Ecuadorian football since establishing himself as a key starter for Independiente del Valle early last year. He won the U20 Copa Libertadores while simultaneously becoming a key man in the main tournament. He broke into the Ecuador team months later and now plys his club trade in England with Brighton. Ecuador will hope a lack of first-team minutes isn't going to hold back his development and that exposure to a higher level of soccer will be of benefit.
Ecuador's overlapping fullbacks are also key, while Sao Paulo’s Robert Arboleda is a rock at the heart of the defence.
Gonzalo Plata is another player who should become increasingly important for Ecuador, making a huge impact off the bench when they defeated Colombia 6-1 back in November. Plata was a star for the successful U20 side and the young flying winger is now getting minutes for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. He is a very effective dribbler of the ball who will terrify tiring defenders.
Decisions for the boss
Alfaro is playing some really attacking football which is somewhat unexpected. We will have to see if he looks to tighten things up or if he continues to encourage Ecuador to play on the front foot, press high, and exploit the transitions.
At times, Ecuador have played with three creative attacking midfielders behind a central striker with the fullbacks providing the width. With the impressive Plata pushing for a start, it will be interesting to see if this continues to be the plan or if they incorporate an additional pacey and conventional winger.
Alfaro has options but with such an impressive start, I am sure his key message to his players will be to demand more of the same.
What does the country expect?
Ecuadorian fans know they have a lot of good young talent coming through and this has brought a lot of optimism. There was a sense that this World Cup qualifying series could be a transitional one as the youngsters break into the team. Their remarkably encouraging start has been a welcome surprise for many and expectations are rapidly rising.
I think the surprisingly dominant performances are a welcome surprise and the positivity should boost the team as they approach the Copa America. The feeling is that progression from the group stage is expected, but that as the team could beat anyone on a good day, who knows how far they can go.
Manager: Ricardo Gareca
Key player: Paolo Guerrero
FIFA World Ranking (May 2021): 27th
Recent performances: 2018 World Cup - Group stage, 2019 Copa America - Runners-up
Odds to win Group B: 10.500*
Odds to win Copa America 2021: 26.000*
Argentine Ricardo Gareca has been in charge of Peru since 2015 and his system has remained largely unchanged, as are the key players who continue to play an important role. Peru will set themselves up playing a 4-2-3-1 system with overlapping fullbacks and wingers providing lots of service.
Paolo Guerrero is an excellent striker who is dangerous in the box, excels at converting a range of chances and half-chances, and combines this with good overall link play. Guerrero is now 37 and continues to be completely indispensable for the team.
Raul Ruidiaz is a decent finisher but doesn’t provide the same overall contribution, while Gianluca Lapadula is dynamic but has been struggling for goals and doesn’t have the same physical presence, and 25-year-old Alex Valera has never played abroad and spent almost all of his career at Peruvian minnows. This is a huge concern for Peru.
Paolo Guerrero is irreplaceable and his overall contribution combined with top-class finishing is going to be key for Peru.
In defensive midfield, the national team is looking strong with Celta Vigo’s Renato Tapia alongside one of Liga MX pair Pedro Aquino or Yoshimar Yotun. Martin Tavara is an interesting and creative younger option who looks to have some decent potential.
Now aged 29, talented playmaker Christian Cueva still has an important role to play in the national side despite failing to live up to his substantial potential. Since the last World Cup, he has had spells in Russia, Brazil, and China, and now plays in Saudi Arabia. While he is scoring and creating plenty of chances, there are understandable questions as to whether he is playing at the right level to prepare him for tough national team games.
The same applies to Andre Carrillo, the quick winger who scored the two goals to earn Peru a point in their World Cup qualifying opener against Paraguay. The 29-year-old is performing consistently well but questions remain as to why key Peruvian players are not playing at bigger clubs in the peak years of their career.
The defence is solid and organised if not blessed with elite individual talent. Fullbacks will usually look to push on and overlap with two defensive midfielders providing protection. Gallese is at times a little inconsistent but the Orlando City goalkeeper has great reactions and is usually very impressive.
Paolo Guerrero is irreplaceable and his overall contribution combined with top-class finishing is going to be key for Peru. Renato Tapia keeps things ticking over in midfield while providing important defensive cover with great energy and intelligence. Luis Abram is a very solid, professional, and consistent performer for Velez and the Peruvian national team who could perhaps still make the step up to Europe at club level.
Peru’s success is likely to be built around their unity and consistency at a time when many of their South American rivals have new players, new managers, and new systems to worry about. If Peru are to have a successful Copa America, then Gareca will be hoping that no new decisions will be required.
The manager may opt for three conservative midfielders in tougher games if he feels extra caution is required, although Peru usually have two sitting back with Cueva free to roam in front.
What does the country expect?
Peruvian fans are hoping for another big tournament from their star striker Guerrero. Reaching the final of the last Copa America was an impressive achievement, but there is a sense that their key players are beginning to decline. Peru will hope the positive results of the last few years can continue for at least one more tournament. A run to the knockout stages is possible, but perhaps depends upon the failures of rivals rather than their own performances.
Manager: Jose Peseiro
Key player: Yeferson Soteldo
FIFA World Ranking (May 2021): 30th
Recent performances: 2018 World Cup - Did not qualify, 2019 Copa America - Quarter-finals
Odds to win Group B: 21.000*
Odds to win Copa America 2021: 34.000*
For years, Venezuela would often set out to try to not concede too many goals in CONMEBOL competitions. They traditionally looked to foreign coaches but appointed Richard Paez during their qualifying campaing for the 2002 World Cup qualifying, sparking improved performances and fresh confidence that continued into Cesar Farias' stint as manager.
Former Venezuelan national team goalkeeper Rafael Dudamel also oversaw an improved process of youth development within the Colombian setup and integration with the national team. He worked with the talented U20 side and incorporated many of their stars into the first team during his tenure.
While there has been a dramatic improvement in results and consistent competitiveness on the field, at the 2019 Copa America the national side still approached games as the underdogs.
The diminutive Soteldo is always a joy to watch as he drifts inside from wide areas to work openings and skip past defenders.
At the tournament, athletic goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez was often the hero in goal and the team would be set up with a deep, compact defence. Mercurial playmaker and star of last year’s Copa Libertadores Yeferson Soteldo often found himself on the fringes and the side was very reactionary.
With renewed confidence, Venezuela are beginning to assert themselves more and build around some of their very talented attacking talents. Salomon Rondon is likely to remain a key figure as the focal point and pivot for attacking play, while Yeferson Soteldo and Jefferson Savarino provide excellent support options. Yangel Herrera and Cristian Casseres Jr can provide energy in the midfield alongside the experienced Tomas Rincon.
Venezuela have never had so much quality and depth, but the question is whether they have the courage to put this at the heart of their tactical approach or if they will instead be dictated by historic inferiority and merely set out to avoid defeat.
The diminutive Soteldo is always a joy to watch as he drifts inside from wide areas to work openings and skip past defenders. Savarino has found some superb form for Atletico Mineiro in the Copa Libertadores and has surely tied down a starting spot for the Copa America.
The dynamic, creative pair should operate either side of the experienced and incredibly effective Rondon. Rondon has been massively underrated at times and is always a key man for Venezuela, holding the ball up and bringing others into play.
Wuilker Farinez has been a star man for Venezuela in recent years, but a lack of starts at club level for RC Lens may have had an impact. At his best, the agile goalkeeper is almost unbeatable, as Lionel Messi famously discovered when he lined up against him in 2018.
Portuguese boss Jose Poseiro needs to decide whether his team should focus on their strengths or worry about their weaknesses. Despite not having high-profile or European-based options at the back, Venezuela’s organisation and defensive discipline have earned some impressive results over recent years.
Despite this, the conservative approach has limited their top talents at times and it is now clear that Venezuela possess the quality to scare their opponents. If Soteldo starts on the bench again, then I think we will have our answer as to Poseiro’s intentions. Hopefully, the Copa America will give Venezuela the confidence to take risks, play attacking football, and have a look at some young talents.
What does the country expect?
Venezuela is dreaming of a World Cup spot and the Copa America should offer an opportunity for the team to gain some confidence. Expectations are realistic, but fans will want Poseiro to continue the progress already made while establishing a clear identity and providing a solid platform for their star men to express themselves.
Don't forget to read our Group A preview and Copa America 2021 predictions ahead of the opening round of group stage fixtures with team news, stats, and analysis, as well as insight from Pinnacle’s odds.
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