Soccer betting favorite Argentina’s major trophy drought is made even more poignant by its association with the career of a player who’s already on the short list for the best in the world. Lionel Messi has yet to win a major senior trophy with Argentina, a king without a crown that has gone almost a quarter of a century without a major title. After they won the 1993 Copa América, Argentina has gone on to lose one World Cup final, two Confederations Cup finals and three Copa América finals. Messi played a role in 50% of those defeats which were all shutouts. But fans who bet on soccer should assume that Argentina has 50-50 chances.
Messi will be 31 years old during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the mileage in his legs and the strength of the European powers will lengthen the championship soccer betting odds. This Copa América may be his last best opportunity to win big with Argentina, and that quest will be what defines this tournament. The group stage which includes Chile, will serve as a nice warm-up. New coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and his boys should be forgiven if they wished they were anywhere but here. La Roja waited almost a century for its first Copa America championship and now must defend it only 1 year later as part of a profitable celebration in the United States. However, Chile should still be feared. If motivated, this team should coast through the first round and then bet contenders for a back-to-back run. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, defender Gary Medel, midfielder Arturo Vidal and forward Alexis Sánchez are stars at some of Europe’s top leagues.
Panama and Bolivia complete the group and almost surely will play each other for third place. Panama has improved so much in recent years that it should have defeated Mexico in the controversy-mired 2015 Gold Cup semifinal, and can be tough to deal with. The draw was not kind to Los Canaleros though, as most people who bet on soccer would agree. Bolivia has difficulties when it gets off its high horse in La Paz. Juan Carlos Arce is Bolivia’s only constant threat to score goals. The 31-year-old Bolivar star tally includes eight goals in 48 international games. The rest of Bolivia’s Copa roster combined has seven. Panamanian Aníbal Godoy of the San Jose Earthquakes has emerged as a top-quality holder who can tackle, pass and set the pace. He’ll be essential to establishing the gameplay that should enhance the offensive prospects of veterans Blas Pérez and Luis Tejada. Gonzalo Higuaín of Argentina is coming off a brilliant season with Napoli, for which he scored a career-record 38 goals. Higuaín must maintain that form so as to relieve some of the burden from Messi’s shoulders and improve Argentina’s soccer betting odds.