Costa Rica (+185) vs Paraguay (+175), Draw (+200)
Costa Rica and Paraguay enter the Copa América Centenario as Group A afterthoughts, residing in a quartet with the host Americans and high-scoring Colombians. But both have the potential to surprise and will look to get off to a fast start this Saturday when they clash at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando (5:00 PM Eastern).
The oddsmakers have Colombia (+125) as the favorite to win the group, followed by the USA (+130). Costa Rica (+450) and Paraguay (+900) bring up the rear.
Costa Rica had an awesome 2014 World Cup in Brazil getting to the quarterfinals, but they failed to deliver in the Gold Cup last year. They’ve undergone a coaching change, installing Oscar Ramirez as manager; Ramirez will try to emulate the defensive-minded style that led to the team’s World Cup success.
Paraguay’s style isn’t conducive to that, though. Paraguay are very passive and force their opponents to attack. They’re much happier with a single point and a draw than with leaving their comfort zone and pressing the action.
That paradigm has been in evidence during the South American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. Paraguay have drawn three of their six fixtures to date, and currently sit tied for 6th (with Brazil) at 2-3-1.
Costa Rica undoubtedly have the smoother counterattack between the two sides, but they may never get the chance to use it.
Costa Rica and Paraguay have split their five matches since 2003 with both winning two and drawing one. The draw (0-0) came in the last game in 2015.
Costa Rica will be without injured goalie Keylor Navas, who just led Real Madrid to a Champions League title. His absence will hurt the team long-term, but shouldn’t be decisive in against a low-scoring team like Paraguay.
Bet the draw between two defensive-minded squads.
Pick: Draw (+200).
(Photo Credit: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa, CC by 3.0 br [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en], via Wikimedia Commons.)