Japan and Chile meet in their Copa America Group C opening fixture, at the Estádio do Morumbi, in São Paulo. The match will kick off on Monday night at 8:00pm local time, which will be midnight for viewers in the UK. Chile are defending two-time champions of Copa America, whereas Japan are one of two invited nations.

Japan

Japan, along with Qatar, are an invited nation for the Copa America. They have played at the Copa America once before in their history, 20 years ago in the 1999 edition. They entered that tournament to enhance their experience at major competitions ahead of the 2002 World Cup which were hosted in Japan. Back then, Japan were not known as a nation with a huge footballing pedigree, so it wouldn’t shock anyone to reveal that they lost two of their three matches, whilst drawing the other to finish bottom of their group and face early elimination. Japan are now a more respected force in football, and will hope to surprise South America over the next fortnight. However, The Samurai Blue are going to field a young and inexperienced squad, to help them better prepare for the summer Olympics next year, which is hosted in Tokyo.

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Chile

Chile lost four Copa America finals from 1955 to 1987, and then had to wait until 2015 for their next chance to win their first ever trophy. That Copa America was hosted in Chile, and they finally were able to get a victory, beating Argentina on penalties. Just one year later, and history repeated itself, as Chile managed to get a 2nd Copa America triumph, by once again beating Argentina on penalties. Chile will be gunning for their 3rd consecutive title, which will more than make up for them missing the World Cup in 2018. They are fifth favourites to win this year, arguably because key players Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez look a shadow of their former selves, and perhaps the burning desire to win is no longer there. Chile struggled to beat Haiti in their pre-tournament friendly this past weekend, winning 2-1. Can Chile become only the 2nd team ever to win this tournament three times in a row?

Head to Head

The sides have only met twice in their entire history, and both of those games came within 18 months in 2008 and 2009. The first meeting was in a Kirin Cup, an annual competition held in Japan, back in 2008, and the two teams played out a dull 0-0 draw. Their 2nd meeting, was just a normal friendly one year before the 2010 World Cup. Japan surprised onlookers by winning 4-0 at home. This will be the first ever meeting between the sides outside of Japan.

Predictions and Betting Tips

Japan are huge underdogs at 7/1 to get a victory, with Chile at 4/9 to win. For the sides to draw, that is priced at 14/5. As Japan are experimenting with players, it would be a stunning victory if they are to beat current holders Chile. My score line prediction would be a 3-0 win for Chile at 8/1. For goal scorers, I’d tip Eduardo Vargas to score at any time at 11/8, as he’ll certainly be starting, whereas Alexis Sanchez still remains a doubt. To increase earnings on a Chile win, I’d tip them to win by a 2-goal margin at 3/1, to score 4+ goals at 15/2 or to win both halves at 9/4. Finally, as opening matches of World Cup can provide huge shocks, (Senegal against France, Cameroon against Argentina all those years ago), it may be worth putting a ridiculous bet on Japan to win 2-0 at 50/1. Crazier things have certainly happened.

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