Chile opens its bid for a third straight Copa America title on June 17, 2019, as the defending champions face guest team Japan at the Cicero Pompeu de Toledo Stadium in Brazil.
Chile won the 2016 Copa America Centenario in the United States. Then managed by Juan Antonio Pizzi, La Roja defeated Argentina in penalties during the final. The win was the second in a row for Chile, who also won in 2015.
After a winner could not be decided in regulation or extra time, both sides went to penalties and Chile won 4-2 during the shootout with Francisco Silva scoring the winning kick. It was in that game where Lionel Messi famously retired, after missing his spot kick. Messi had then lost three major tournaments in a row. He would later reverse his decision to retire and play again in the 2018 World Cup.
As for La Roja, the reigning Copa America champions are the soccer betting favorites to beat Japan in this game. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup between Chile and Japan:
Chile had never won the Copa America until 2015 and now they have won the last two editions of the tournament. Four years ago, they were crowned as winners on their home soil after defeating Argentina 4-1 on penalties. Then La Roja defended their title one year later at the Copa America centenary commemoration tournament. They also won the final on penalty kicks. Their win in 2015, earned them a place at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia where they finished as runners up to Germany.
These are Chile’s 23-man team to the 2019 Copa America:
- Goalkeepers: Gabriel Arias, Brayan Cortes, Yerko Urra
- Defenders: Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, Mauricio Isla, Jean Beausejour, Paulo Diaz, Guillermo Maripan, Igor Lichnovsky, Oscar Opazo
- Midfielders: Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Pedro Pablo Hernandez, Erick Pulgar, Diego Valdes, Esteban Pavez
- Forwards: Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas, Jose Pedro Fuenzalida, Nicolas Castillo, Junior Fernandes, Angelo Sagal
Odds from Bet365 as of 6/05/19
Japan is one of two guest teams in the 2019 Copa America, the other being Asian Champions Qatar. The Japanese are coming off a heartbreaking defeat to the Qataris in the 2019 AFL Cup and will be looking at this tournament to hone his young players for the 2020 Olympics which will be held in Japan. That said, coach Hajime Moriyasu picked an inexperienced squad to play in the 2019 Copa America.17 out of the 23 players in the Japanese team are uncapped. Shinji Okazaki, who is a free agent after leaving Leicester, and Eiji Kawashima of Strasbourg are the only veterans who made the team.
Hajime Moriyasu’s final 23-man squad is as follows:
- Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Ryosuke Kojima, Keisuke Osako
- Defenders: Naomichi Ueda, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Tomoki Iwata, Ko Itakura, Daiki Sugioka, Teruki Hara, Daiki Suga, Yugo Tatsuta
- Midfielders: Yuta Nakayama, Gaku Shibasaki, Shoya Nakajima, Takefusa Kubo, Tatsuya Ito, Koji Miyoshi, Kota Watanabe, Hiroki Abe, Taishi Matsumoto
- Forwards: Shinji Okazaki, Daizen Maeda, Ayase Ueda
The key player for Chile is Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez is the most capped Chilean football player and the top goal-scorer in Chile’s history with 41 international goals. He was a key member of Chile’s back to back triumphs in the Copa America in 2015 and 2016. Also suiting up for Chile is midfielder Arturo Vidal. The 31-year old heads to this tournament in top form after winning the La Liga with Barcelona.
For Japan, Tatsuya Ito has undeniable potential and dribbling skills that can beat even some of the world’s top players. The Hamburger SV ( German 2nd division ) winger was awarded the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month in April 2018. 17-year old Takefusa Kubo is also another Japanese youngster to watch. The former Barcelona player has made a name for himself in Japan’s domestic circuit as a midfielder for Tokyo FC. Finally, Japan’s third all-time leading scorer Shinji Okazaki will also suit up for the Samurai Blue.
As the defending champions, there’s a lot of pressure and the expectations are high for Chile. But their golden generation is aging and winning a third straight Copa America may be too difficult. However, against a young team like Japan in the group stages, La Roja’s experience could prove to be the key. Prediction: Chile