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Brazil to win Copa America? Messi to score first for Argentina?

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Nicol: If I have a chance to kick Neymar, I'll take it (1:28)

Steve Nicol outlines how defenders should stop Neymar and he explains if he were defending Neymar, he'd do anything to upset his game. (1:28)

It was a profitable midweek for the column after posting 5/1, 13/5 and 11/10 winners from the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Focus now switches to the 46th Copa America, which kicks off this weekend in Brazil and runs until July 7.

Running total: -£20.72

The Banker

The Copa America -- the oldest tournament in international football -- begins on Friday night when hosts Brazil take on Bolivia in Sao Paulo. Chile have won the last two editions in 2015 and 2016, winning both on penalties against Argentina.

Brazil's preparations were rocked by the recent injury to star man Neymar, but they remain rock solid 11/10 shots with bet365 to win the title on home soil. The Selecao have not won the Copa since 2007 but it's worth remembering they've lifted the trophy every time they've been hosts, most recently in 1989.

Uruguay have been South American champions 15 times (a record) while Argentina have 14 wins and are the 7/2 second favourites this year. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero will lead their latest title bid but this Argentine side looks short of experience in key areas, particularly at the back and they've yet to totally convince under new boss Lionel Scaloni, who has only been in charge since their 2018 World Cup exit at the hands of France. Remarkably of those 14 previous wins for Argentina, only two have come in the last sixty years: 1991 and 1993.

Defending champions Chile have been poor since their last Copa triumph, failing to qualify for Russia 2018 and much will depend on the form of Alexis Sanchez.

Brazil meanwhile look a much more balanced side, even without Neymar, and can maintain their proud 100 percent Copa America record on home soil by winning again in front of their fanatical followers.

Selection: £10 on Brazil to win the Copa America at 11/10 with bet365.

The First Goal Flutter

Every time Argentina play, the spotlight, like it always has been, is squarely on their No. 10. Fully 14 years after his senior international debut, the Albicelestes still haven't succeeded in bringing out the best in Lionel Messi. Despite a glittering and truly mesmerising club career, La Pulga has never celebrated a major international title. However Messi remains their all-time top scorer with 67 goals and he's an 11/4 shot to score first against Columbia on Saturday. In what could be a cagey encounter, look for the little genius to unlock this stubborn Colombian rearguard.

Selection: £4 on Messi to score first at 11/4 with bet365.

The Tasty Treble

Brazil have kept eight clean sheets in their last 10 matches and should ease to victory over Bolivia, who have failed to find the net in five of their last six games. Brazil to win to nil is a 2/5 shot with bet365 and looks banker material. Elsewhere, 5/4 looks a solid price for both teams scoring when Uruguay play Ecuador. La Celeste will always be dangerous with Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez up front but Ecuador also have goals in them and will be worth keeping an eye on. Finally, add in Argentina at 19/20 to beat a Colombia side who've failed to beat them in any of their last eight matches.

Selection: £3 on the treble at 5.14/1 with bet365.

The Wildcard Tip

Paraguay are heavy favourites to beat Qatar despite the fact they've won precisely one game -- against minnows Guatemala -- since October 2017. Qatar showed in a recent 2-0 friendly defeat to Brazil that they are no mugs and they are very disciplined defensively. Felix Sanchez Bas has got them organised and the 2022 World Cup hosts look primed to make a statement here, so its surprising to see them chalked up at bigger than 4/1 for the win.

Selection: £2 on Qatar to beat Paraguay at 19/4 with bet365.

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