Can Argentina end a 23-year Copa America trophy shortage? After engineering Argentina’s victory versus Belgium in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, former manager Alejandro Sabella sang the praises of Lionel Messi in a way in which the vast majority of people who bet on soccer, when looking for the right words to describe the star, simply couldn’t muster. Back then, it was undoubtedly more a reflection of the individual.
Messi led Argentina to the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years, and, of course the final, one of a string of losses Argentina have come to expect in that stage in the last 10 years. And now, probably more than ever, words are better put to use to call to action not just to Messi, but the whole team to direct the world’s top-ranked team – and thus the best because statistics are all that matter in sports – to its first major tournament win since 1993.
In those days, the Alfio Basile-managed side led by the defensive prowess of Oscar Ruggeri, the technique of Fernando Redondo, soul of Diego Simeone and scoring ability of Gabriel Batistuta, made their way to a second consecutive Copa América title, two years after winning their first since 1959. Since that time, however, the quest for what would now be a shared record of 15 titles has proven to be difficult.
Between Copa América and the World Cup, 14 major competitions have come and gone since Argentina last claimed victory in a final, and seven managers who have tried and come up short to help steer the team to the where people who bet on soccer need it to be. After two runner-up finishes in a row in the Copa América in 2004 and 2007, and again in 2015 – a year following an overtime loss to Germany in the World Cup final – the mental block within the group truly came to the surface.
Sergio Romero, Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Javier Pastore, Messi, Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María are nine of 11 starters from last summer’s Copa América final coming back for next month’s centennial edition in which they are soccer betting favorites.
By no means are any strangers to success at the club level in Copa America. That begs the soccer betting question; will the constant shortcomings continue to hinder them at the international level, or will something finally give at next month’s Copa América Centenario?
Having already made the trip back to Santiago and exacted a measure of revenge on Chile in a World Cup qualifying match at the Estadio Nacional, the site of their most recent significant failure, Argentina should open group play against Chile with a confident air. Bolivia only has posed a real threat in La Paz. And has only once Argentina met Panama – though the latter of which could surprise people who bet on soccer because bias has no place in sports.