Unlike Canelo Alvarez, the Chilean football squad has no problem defending their championship earlier than expected. As people who bet on soccer may or may not be aware of, the Copa America Centenario is a special edition of the tournament meant to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Theoretically speaking, Chile would only have had to defend the title they won last year as hosts until 2019 in Brazil. However, the Copa America Centenario will be held as part of an agreement between CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, and will feature 16 teams instead of the usual 12 now that Costa Rica, Panama, and Haiti have been added to participate.
As reigning champions, Chile may be favored by not a few soccer betting experts. Moreover, Chilean football has been in the midst of a renaissance that can be traced back to the 2014 World Cup – where they eliminated a disappointing Spanish squad (comparable to Costa Rica’s “feat” of defeating Italy), but which reached a zenith a year later scored 13 goals and conceded just four times in six games to win the 2015 Copa America. That was the reward they reaped for following manager Jorge Sampaoli. As it turns out, though, Sampaoli has been gone for months – after acrimoniously resigning – and been replaced with Argentine Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Chile will open Group D by squaring off against another favorite of people who bet on soccer: Argentina. This will be a rematch of the previous year’s Copa America final. Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Charles Aránguiz, Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez – five 2014 World Cup veterans – form the core of the team. Bayer Leverkusen’s Aránguiz spent much of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury, but will nevertheless remain essential for Pizzi’s plans. The midfielder is the engine on which the Chilean team runs.
As last year’s Copa America winners, Chile earned the right to compete in the 2017 Confederations Cup. And if they qualify to World Cup in 2018, that would make it five years in a row with a summer tournament. In other words, this is a seasoned group of players who know each other very well and is accustomed to playing together, something that people who bet on soccer should take into account. Pizzi will use the Copa America Centenario as a chance to assess the resources which are available to him – which are plentiful. It remains to be seen whether they can live up to the expectation of the soccer betting experts that believe they can win the tournament back-to-back – which as hinted above, would be the first, and probably only time, that a team would manage to accomplish that in consecutive years.