Maracana - Copa America
After scraping through their group with a victory over Qatar in their final fixture, Argentina play Venezuela in the Copa America quarter-finals. The winner of this match will play hosts Brazil in the semis, potentially setting up a monster clash between the Selecao and La Albiceleste.
Gone are the days where Argentina used to beat Venezuela every time they played them. Both sides have won two of the last six meetings between the countries, with La Vinotinto winning the most recent one with a 3-1 friendly victory at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano three months ago.
Salomon Rondon scored the opener in that recent friendly, although the Newcastle United striker is yet to hit the back of the net in the Copa America. He’ll start as Venezuela’s focal point up front though with Darwin Machis in support, who scored his team’s first two goals in their final group game.
Described by Argentinian media as ‘an Angel without wings,’ Angel Di Maria was an unused substitute against Qatar as he remains one appearance shy of his 100th international cap. The Paris Saint-Germain forward is far from likely to get it on Friday, particularly from the start, with Lautaro Martinez breaking the deadlock last time out alongside Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in attack.
Venezuela v Argentina Preview and Predictions
While Argentina toiled through their group after losing to Colombia and drawing with Paraguay, Venezuela remained unbeaten in a tough group containing Brazil and Peru. La Vinotinto still start this game as the heavy underdogs though, against an Argentinian side expected to get the job done and set up an almighty semi-final with Brazil.
However, La Albiceleste have failed to set the Copa America alight so far, needing an 82nd-minute Aguero goal to finally get a second goal to see off a plucky Qatar side on Sunday. That was after Martinez’s opener inside the first few minutes, with Messi skewing a golden opportunity high, wide and not very handsome later on.
Argentina’s No 10 remains the one to watch in this game though, and in the tournament in general. Lionel Scaloni’s rotating line-up and formation doesn’t inspire any consistency, or indeed confidence, but reverting to a 4-3-3 similar to the one used by Barcelona looks like being the way to allow Messi the freedom to operate as he does best.
Venezuela meanwhile will do their utmost to frustrate their opponents, as they did in holding Peru and Brazil to goalless draws in their first two matches. They bared their teeth in seeing off Group A whipping boys Bolivia, but start this quarter-final as the 6/1 underdogs. Argentina are 3/5 for the win in 90 minutes, with the draw priced at 16/5.
There’s no extra-time in the quarters, with the game going straight to penalties if the scores are level. With that in mind, Argentina are 2/7 to qualify for the semi, with Venezuela at 16/5.
Argentina to win and under 2.5 goals at 12/5
Venezuela will be hard to break down in this game after only conceding one goal in three matches so far, while Argentina’s forward line is yet to fire.
Venezuela to win on penalties at 14/1
Or back Rafael Dudamel’s side to fight their way to a draw after 90 minutes, before upsetting their more illustrious opponents on spot kicks.