USA (+540) vs Argentina (-222), Draw (+330)
The favorite to win the Copa America Centenario, Argentina (4-0-0), will clash against the host United States (3-1-0) today (9:00 PM Eastern at NRG Stadium in Houston) with a place in the tournament final on the line.
Argentina have lived up to their favorite status throughout the competition, posting a perfect 3-0 record in the group stage and trouncing Venezuela 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The squad is now averaging 3.5 goals per game in the tournament. Anything but a championship is going to be considered a failure for Gerardo Martino’s side.
Unsurprisingly, Argentina have looked especially unstoppable when Lionel Messi is on the pitch. His mere presence noticeably impacts opponents’ defensive schemes and with good reason; he’s scored four goals in just 164 minutes of action and is all but guaranteed to be the tournament MVP if Argentina do go onto win.
For team USA, a win today would be gravy. Though they have homefield advantage, they’re heavy underdogs and, to some extent, have already overachieved by getting this far. They weren’t on top form coming into the tournament but topped Group A with a 2-0-1 record and then ousted Ecuador (2-1) in the quarters.
It will be interesting to see what manager Jürgen Klinsmann will have prepared for Messi and the rest of Argentina’s attack. After a disastrous opening game against Colombia, Team USA shored up their defense, posting back to back clean sheets and just one goal in the last three games.
If they’re going to score the upset, they’ll need to win the battle in the middle of the field. Sitting back and waiting to counter isn’t a winning game plan given the power in Argentina’s attack. Giving Messi and company 90 minutes to poke and prod is apt to result in conceding a goal or two.
Argentina and the US have drawn their last two matches, both friendlies. In my view, Messi and the Albiceleste are destined to win this tournament, and they should be the bet in this semifinal game, despite the short odds on the moneyline.
Pick: Argentina (-222).
(Photo Credit: Saadick Dhansay (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.)