Without star man Neymar, Brazil could struggle to see off Ecuador in their opening match.
Brazil are the second favourites heading into the competition but after the disappointing performances of recent years can they really expect to challenge in a team that is missing Neymar.
Defensively there are lots of question marks for Brazil as they failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their four matches at last year’s Copa and were ultimately knocked out on penalties by a poor Paraguay side. They’ve kept just one clean sheet in their last 15 competitive matches and along with Neymar the likes of Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo are all missing.
If their performances last summer weren’t bad enough then their start to the World Cup qualification campaign has been woeful. They’ve won only two of six matches and are currently outside of the qualifying spots while their competitive record against teams in the top 20 in our rankings since 2014 is a woeful W1-D4-L4.
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Ecuador suffered an embarrassing group exit at last summer’s Copa as they were beaten by Bolivia. However, they’ve rebounded superbly to sit level with Uruguay at the top of the World Cup qualifying standings. They’ll have a stronger team than last summer with Antonio Valencia fit again and with an attack featuring the talents of Enner Valencia, Miller Bolanos and Jefferson Montero they feature plenty of pace and flair.
They do have a woeful Copa America record, having not made it out of the group stages in any of their last six attempts but this is the highest we’ve ever had them ranked going into a tournament.
Nevertheless they tend to be weaker away from the altitude in Quito and Brazil have won every meeting between these teams outside of Ecuador. Against this Brazil defence, however, we certainly fancy them to score. Ecuador have netted at least twice in eight of their last 10 games, only three of which were at home, and six of those matches had at least three goals.
Both teams to score can be backed at 2.1 and looks a great bet. At odds-on Brazil are too short for us given their form of recent years and weakened squad and so we think the value is on us seeing an end to that 100% record over Ecuador. These are the two strongest teams in the group and both would probably be relatively happy to settle for a share of the spoils so we’ll also back the draw.
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