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The Complete Copa America Betting Guide

Copa America
South America is the soccer capital of the world. Some of the absolute greatest players to ever walk the face of the earth have emerged from the cities and towns of countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, and Peru. The game is so deeply embedded into the consciousness of South Americans that – when it comes to a showdown to prove who is best – the entire continent takes notice.

The rich history of South American soccer owes much to the Copa America. Fans from across the globe understand just how passionate and dedicated fans of the aforementioned teams are. This is more than a tournament. Countries play for the pride of the shirts on their backs. They battle in hostile stadiums for the history attached to the crest on their chests. This is as close to warfare as it gets in soccer.

For 90 minutes of each game, 11 players represent their country against their neighbors. The historic tension, bitter rivalries, and intense competition of countries are played out between many of the world’s star players. Make no mistake, this is as serious as it gets for the players, coaches, and fans of each of the countries playing in South America’s premier soccer tournament.

What Is the Copa America?

Formerly known as the South American Championships, the Copa America is the premier soccer tournament played by CONMEBOL soccer states. The object of the tournament is to crown the champion of South America.

It was all the way back in 1916 when the tournament was first held. Countries from around South America were invited to play in the cup initially hosted by Argentina for the purpose of celebrating the 100th anniversary of their independence. This makes it the oldest soccer tournament on Earth and one which fans of the sport deeply respect, from Europe to Asia.

These days, the Copa America is held once every four years. Since 1993, there have been 12 teams present in the tournament, which is comprised of the 10 CONMEBOL soccer teams and two invitees from other parts of the world. Mexico generally takes one invite, with another team – such as the USA or Japan – making up the 12th place. This is set to expand, however.

There are only two South American teams that have failed to win the tournament at least once. Ecuador and Venezuela, unfortunately, are still chasing their maiden win. You can bet that when this happens for either country, there will be parties. Yes, we mean big, big parties. There is no country participating in the Copa America that does not invest serious passion into this historic tournament.

The Best Sites to Bet on Copa America

Thankfully for betting enthusiasts, there are a number of top-class sites out there that will cater to your Copa America betting needs. The modern age has afforded us the luxury of being able to open up the laptop – or turn on the tablet – to access numerous markets from the comfort of our own homes.

We would strongly recommend choosing a solid sportsbook and reliable site before you even think of betting on Copa America games.

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Rules and Tournament Format

The modern version of this tournament features 12 teams contesting games over two phases. The first is a group stage comprising of three games per team, with four teams in each group. The Copa America is held by a host nation which rotates from tournament to tournament. There are two phases: the group stage and a knockout stage. There is a specific way groups are determined, too.

There are three groups comprised of four teams. The teams in each group are seeded, with the highest-ranked teams in the FIFA World Rankings and the host nation taking top spots. The other teams are placed into pots before being drawn into their respective groups. If you have ever seen a game of bingo played, the whole process can be reminiscent of this. Well, kind of. If the bingo caller was wearing a sharp suit, that is.

So, from these three groups, four teams will play each other once. For those who aren’t the most gifted in math, this makes for three games that each team will play. The two teams to emerge at the top of their groups – so 1st and 2nd place – will proceed to the knockout stages of the tournament. The two strongest-finishing third-placed teams will also join them.

Points are awarded as follows:

Determining a Group Winner

As with any tournament, there will be times when two teams finish with the same points. If this is the case, there are a number of ways to determine the winner. Typically, what will matter if there is no difference in points are the following:

If both teams are still tied, then the tie will usually be settled by the following:

Should there still be no way to separate both teams, then the CONMEBOL Organizing Committee will draw a team at random to be announced as the group winner.

Phew. Quite a lot of information to take in there. The good news is that scenarios such as these seldom present themselves.

The Knockout Stages

Once teams progress to the knockout stages, there can only be one winner in each match. If the game ends in a tie, extra time and penalty kicks are used to settle the score, so to speak. The knockout stages are comprised of quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final game. There is also a third-place play-off featuring the losing semi-finalists of the tournament. Although the game is still attended by fans, it can be a bittersweet occasion.

After all, getting so close only to end up falling flat at the final hurdle will hurt. Regardless of whether this is a local soccer tournament – or the most prestigious soccer tournament in the Americas – really doesn’t matter. Actually, it does. We’re obviously lying. It matters a lot…

The final game of the tournament will crown the champion of the Copa America, bringing pride, honor, and ecstasy to that country. There is nothing quite like a Copa America final. If you decide to go and see for yourself one day, it will be an experience you will never, ever forget.

Another thing that has been firmly embedded into the consciousness of the fans of the tournament are the great players who have lit it up over the years. Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at the five greatest Copa America players of all time.

Top 5 Copa America Players of All Time

It is incredibly difficult to have to choose who we believe are the best five players to ever play in the Copa America. The reason for this is that there has been a cornucopia of world-class talent which has brought great joy to fans over the years. Trying to whittle it all down to just five players is difficult, but here goes.

Here are the five greatest players to have ever lit up the Copa America.

5. Ronaldo

Brazil Ronaldo Luís Nazário Football Legend
In the modern age, there are two players who stand head and shoulders above any others on Earth. They are, of course, Messi and Ronaldo. While it is uncommon to see any list regarding greatness without both men sharing spaces in one shape or another, it would be on this list. The Ronaldo we are referring to is Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or “R9,” and not the Portuguese legend of the same name.

Fans under a certain age will find it difficult to appreciate just how good Brazil’s Ronaldo was in his prime. A two-time FIFA World Cup winner, Ronaldo was blessed with incredible pace and finishing abilities in addition to slick dribbling and feints. Having starred for PSV Eindhoven early in his career, Ronaldo would go on to play for Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Real Madrid.

There is no doubt that Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time. The Brazilian is also one of the best players ever to have participated in the Copa America. With 247 goals in 343 games and two Ballon d’Or wins, his stats pretty much speak volumes for this legend of soccer.

4. Zico

Zico Football Legend for Brazil
If fans under the age of 30 would struggle to remember Ronaldo, they will probably have no idea who Zico is. A legend in his homeland of Brazil, the “White Pele” was considered as the greatest player in the world throughout a period of the 1970s through to the 1980s. An attacking midfielder par-excellence, Zico was known as a wizard with an incredible knack for opening up defenses.

One of the greatest set-piece takers of all time, the Brazilian also had an uncanny ability to bend the ball to his will. This made him a very dangerous player to come across in a competitive situation. He could certainly score goals, too. Considering the number of incredibly prolific strikers and midfielders the country has had since he retired, Zico is still the 5th-highest goal scorer in Brazil’s history.

Zico played the majority of his career in Brazil with Flamengo, enjoying a short stint in Italy with Udinese. Regardless, he is still considered one of the greatest players of all time and one of Copa America’s brightest stars.

3. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messin Argentina
What else can be said about Lionel Messi that hasn’t been addressed already? The Argentine wonder is regarded by many around the world as the greatest player of all time. The sports press  ran out of superlatives a long time ago to describe the Barcelona man. His achievements are downright scary: five Ballon d’Or awards, four UEFA Champions League titles, the record number of goals in La Liga…

The list goes on and on. There is no doubting the Rosario native’s genius. He has also lit up the Copa America during his handful of appearances in the tournament. Unfortunately for Messi, he has never won the trophy. This – in addition to his lack of FIFA World Cup titles – gives the naysayers reason to discount him as a candidate for the best player of all time.

There is absolutely no doubt that Messi is one of the greatest players to have ever played in the Copa America. Can he be considered as the best if he has failed to lift the trophy? There is definitely a case to suggest that this is fair.

2. Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona Football Legend
Maradona. An icon. A national hero. A mercurial genius with almost every single attribute required to be a god of soccer. FIFA’s (joint) Player of the 20th Century is unanimously referred to as one of the greatest to have ever kicked a ball. There are no arguments about his talents and accomplishments. Maradona was the first player to set the world record transfer fee twice, giving fans an idea of his worth at the time.

Despite playing in four FIFA World Cups, Maradona would only win once, in 1986. Regardless, his skills and notorious ability to run rings around the opposition made him, perhaps, the most exciting player in the history of the sport. Maradona also holds the peculiar records of being the most fouled player in a World Cup match (23) and an entire tournament (50).

It is hard to describe just how important Diego Maradona was to soccer. He was also one of the most gifted players to ever grace the Copa America.

1.  Pele

Pele Football Legend
1281 goals in 1363 games. According to sources, that is the number of goals scored by the Brazilian super-legend – and eternal ambassador of soccer – Pele. An unbelievably gifted player, Pele could simply do things that no other man in the world was even remotely capable of. Having made his debut for Brazil at the age of 16, Pele would go on to help his country win three FIFA World Cups.

Having ended his international career with 72 goals in 91 games for Brazil, Pele holds one of the most impressive finishing records of all time. It was more than just goals that made Pele arguably the greatest player of all time: his ability to assume a playmaker’s role and provide numerous assists was also highly impressive. Watching Pele do his thing live is one of the biggest wishes of soccer fans across the globe.

The greatest player to have ever played in the Copa America? We would certainly have to give it to the great man, even if he never managed to win the tournament.

Top 3 Copa America Teams of All Time

There have been 45 tournaments held since the inaugural competition we now know as the Copa America. Of these 45 tournaments, only eight have been won by teams other than Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Of those eight tournaments, Paraguay, Chile, and Peru have won on two occasions, with Colombia and Bolivia winning once.

It is safe to say that the top three teams in the Copa America have done a pretty good job of keeping the trophy well and truly bogarted. It is no secret that the majority of the greatest players to ever feature in the tournament have also come from these three countries. Below, we will take a look at what has made Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil so incredibly successful in the Copa America.


Uruguay Flag
At one point, Uruguay was simply unbeatable in soccer tournaments. The first team to ever win the FIFA World Cup, Uruguay was also, coincidentally, the first nation to ever be crowned champions of South America, in 1916. That tournament, as we explained earlier in this guide, took place in Argentina and was the first-ever organized championship of its sort in the region.

Uruguay would go on to win a record 15 Copa America titles from 1916 onwards. They also finished as runner-up on six separate occasions. Their dominance in the tournament has been punctuated by a consistent level of top-quality players over many different eras. Players such as Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Hector Scarone, Luis Cubilla, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, and many more have propelled Uruguay to the level it occupies today.

Those 15 titles are very closely run by their neighbor – and greatest rival – Argentina.


Argentina Flag
The famous blue and white stripes of Argentina have been worn by many of the best players to have ever played the game. Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Alfredo Di Stefano, Mario Kempes, Daniel Passarella, and many more stars have helped Argentina to the status of one of the greatest teams in the history of soccer. Regarded for sublime skill and total football, it should be no surprise to see them feature so highly on this list.

Just behind Uruguay with 14 Copa America titles, many observers and pundits would have expected the country to have overtaken their rivals with the unbelievable wealth of talent at their disposal. Messi, who is arguably the greatest player to have ever lived, has been unable to spark a revival in the country when it comes to winning major tournaments, including the Copa America.

Regardless of their profligacy, Argentina is still at least the second-strongest nation to have ever participated in the Copa America. That is on account of how many titles they have, of course. There are some who would argue that the next country on this list deserves to rank higher.


Brazil Flag
With the sheer magnitude of talent that Brazil has produced over the years, those naysayers definitely have a case. However, with just 8 tournament victories, it is incredibly surprising to see a country so absolutely dominant on the world stage fail to monopolize on the Copa America. Brazil has finished as runners-up on 11 separate occasions, too.

And how about that talent? The modern era has seen a massive amount of attention paid to Neymar, their star striker, given that the conveyor belt of individual talent has not been as prolific as it once was. Over the decades, players such as Pele, Zico, Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Kaka, and many more have etched their way into the pantheon of world greats.

It will forever remain a mystery as to why this soccer-crazy country could not do better with the talent they had when it came to the Copa America. That being said, with 5 FIFA World Cups in the trophy room, I guess their stars can be forgiven, a little.

What makes the tournament so exciting is that even a team as dominant as Brazil is never guaranteed success. Messi’s Argentina falls into that mix, too. Nothing is certain when it comes to the Copa America, which can provide a wealth of interesting bets to those interested in placing wagers on some or all of the games played.

The Best Bets to Place

Soccer is an easy sport to bet on. The fact that it is the most watched sport on Earth makes it particularly useful from a bettor’s perspective. With more money changing hands, there are often some really great odds to be found – if you are looking in the right places, that is.

The bets you can make when it comes to the Copa America will be some of the same bets you would place on the English Premier League, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championship, or Champions League games. Soccer bets have been so refined that there is little need to try to customize bets these days. Most of what you would need, especially in terms of variety, should already be there, waiting for you at a reliable sportsbook.

Popular Copa America Bets

Below, we will list some of the most popular bets you can place on any Copa America game. From moneyline bets to half-time/full-time predictions, you cannot go wrong with these suggestions.

Match Bet

In simple terms, your moneyline bet will be as simple as choosing a team. Odds will be presented to you based on the strength of one team against another. Where one team is considerably stronger than the other, you can expect to receive lower odds. This is due to the fact that there is a higher perceived probability that the stronger team will win the game.

For example:

Brazil (1.88) vs. Paraguay (4.10)

Brazil is the stronger team, and the odds certainly reflect this. A $100 bet on Brazil to win will return a total of $188 ($88 winnings and $100 stake). However, if you chose to bet on Paraguay, your $100 bet would return a total of $410 ($310 winnings and $100 stake).

This is the easiest bet you can place on a Copa America game. Don’t forget that you can choose to bet on a draw result, too.

Parlay Bet

This type of bet is essentially multiple selections on the same bet. There is no doubt that this type of bet can be very profitable if all results go your way. The odds are exceptionally high for many parlay bets, given that the chances of making two or more successful predictions seriously outweigh the chances of making one. You can generally opt for anywhere between 2 and 15 results on a parlay bet.

Among many soccer fans, a “double” or “treble” bet is very popular, especially in Britain and Ireland. These bets are probably outweighed by the “accumulator,” which continues to grow in massive popularity across the pond. In essence, these bets are parlays.

For example:

A $100 double bet on Brazil (1.88) to beat Chile and on Uruguay (2.10) to beat Argentina will earn you a total of $394.80 (including your stake).

A $100 treble bet on Brazil (1.88) to beat Chile, Uruguay (2.10) to beat Argentina, and Paraguay (1.55) to beat Bolivia will return $611.94 (including your stake).

It is important to remember that most parlay bets will require each and every selection to win before they pay out. It is always worth checking terms and conditions with the sportsbook or site you choose to bet on before placing your wager. This applies to most multiple bets.

Correct Score

Another incredibly popular bet with soccer fans is the correct score bet. It is a prediction on the exact score of the game. Always make sure that you have factored in extra time when making this bet, as any scores over 90 minutes do not generally count towards your bet.

For example:

A $100 bet on Brazil to beat Paraguay 4-1 (9.00) will return a total of $900 (with your $100 stake included). There will usually be many scores available to bet on, with differing odds depending on how brave and bold your predictions are.


The most common over/under bet in soccer is the number of goals scored in any given game. Bookmakers will typically incorporate a half goal into the odds to give themselves a slight edge and rule out the possibility of a tie. You choose if the number of goals scored will be over or under those advertised on the sportsbook.

For example:

Argentina vs. Colombia: Over 2.5 goals (2.1) or Under 2.5 goals (1.9)

Half Time/Full Time

This bet is pretty simple to understand and pays out some decent odds, for the most part. The object of the bet is to predict what team will be winning at half time and full time. Of course, you also have the option of both teams drawing at half time or full time, too.

Draw No Bet

This bet is also pretty popular with soccer fans. It provides a little bit of insurance, at very least. In simple terms, you choose a team to win the game. If the match ends in a draw, the bet is void, and you receive your stake back. You can’t get much fairer than that. Just be careful and check if the odds are worth it.

Goal Scorer Bets

There are a number of goalscorer bets that you can opt from when betting on the Copa America. The opportunities are pretty limited, however, unless you are betting in-play. The most popular markets for goalscorer bets are as follows.

The First Goalscorer

Choose any player on the pitch to score the first goal in the game. Strikers will naturally come with shorter odds, with defenders often worth a shot given higher odds. If a team tends to be strong in the air – or perform well from set pieces – this can give you something to think about when placing your bets.

The Final Goalscorer

Who will be the last player to score in the game? Sound difficult to predict? That’s because it is. That’s kind of what makes it fun, though, right?

Anytime Goalscorer

As simple as it sounds. Choose a player from either team to score at any point during the game.


One of the most popular bets among soccer fans is the scorecast. Simply choose the first goal scorer and the final score of the game (in 90 minutes) to win your bet. There are some potentially big odds for this one if you can get it right.

Copa America Betting Strategy

The Copa America is a very strange tournament from the perspective of a betting enthusiast. The team which you would put your house on winning rarely does. The best possible example anyone can provide you with – following this point – is Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Despite the envious quality they have had over the years, the country’s last success in the tournament came in 1993. That is a crazy statistic.

On the flip side, Brazil has won three of the last six tournaments. The last two tournaments, however, were won by a team who had never tasted success before: Chile. The bottom line is that – if you study form alone – it brings up some surprising things to consider. Putting all of your money behind a team full of incredible stars may lose you all of your money, but choosing an outsider would have earned you some great odds.

So, what is the best way to approach a strategy when betting on the Copa America? The answer is that there is no proven way to know for certain who will win the tournament. There are so many variables and things to consider that it pays more to find value in odds and go from there. Here are a few tips to help.

Price up the Underdogs

As we mentioned above, Chile, of all teams, has won the last two Copa America titles. In 2015, they defeated Argentina on penalties at the first tournament they hosted since 1991. As anyone who had an interest in soccer in the years preceding 2015 would have told you, players such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal were outstanding around this time. There was a real buzz surrounding the team, and they had excellent harmony.

Factor in that home advantage, and you would begin to develop a solid case for Chile winning the tournament. Of course, there were not many gamblers willing to bet against Lionel Messi’s Argentina, especially since they finished the 2014 World Cup as extra-time losers in the final. However, as fate would have it, Chile held their nerve to win.

The same sentiment should apply when choosing a team to back in the Copa America. If there are strong odds for an underdog team that just seems to be “clicking,” there may be a value bet right in front of your face. As the favorite tag doesn’t carry much weight in this tournament, it pays to price up the underdogs.

Do the Favorites Justify Their Short Prices?

Argentina and Brazil have traditionally been the strongest teams in the modern era, so they will always be heavily backed by casual gamblers. The thing to consider is, do they warrant those short odds? How have both teams performed in the FIFA World Cup that preceded the tournament, and how is their general form leading into the Copa America? Ask yourself if the odds are strong enough to warrant a bet on that team.

Are there any factors which could affect the favorites lifting the cup? For example, are there any injuries to key players? Situations such as this can have a much more profound effect on a team’s ability to win than you might initially think. Size everything up before you place that bet.

How Does the Schedule Pan Out?

Perhaps the path to the final for your fancied team is potentially more difficult than you think. The runner up of a group could be the first opponents that your chosen team faces, and despite a hiccup, have the potential to beat anyone on their day. Even if your team can get past that challenge, say they have to face Brazil in the semi-finals, who is looking incredibly tight-knit and strong all over.

Say you haven’t considered any of this and have placed a sizeable bet on a team that then crashes out in the quarter-finals. It is always important to consider the route to the final in any tournament. Given the intense rivalry and heated competition in the Copa America, it becomes even more important to get this right. Never underestimate how important it can be to plan ahead.

How Are the Stars Performing?

The cream of the crop in South American soccer play abroad. The majority of the best talent that features in the Copa America ply their trade in La Liga, the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, and other premier European competitions. How have they performed in the domestic season preceding the tournament? Have they had a season to remember or one to forget?

In soccer, form is everything. Players can enter a tournament carrying the baggage of a poor season with them. Even the best players go through bad patches, which can affect them mentally. Consider how the stars of their teams have been performing and factor this into the choices you make when it comes to choosing a team.

A Tournament Like No Other

Since the first incarnation of the Copa America all the way back in 1916, South American soccer has thrived. It is simply inconceivable to imagine a world where players from this region are not bringing their magic to fans and enthusiasts all over the world. From a betting perspective, getting behind these magicians and wizards can be very profitable for the smart gambler.

It all comes down to doing your homework and understanding how a number of internal and external factors can influence a game. Even the greatest teams to have ever been composed have failed to lift the trophy, so it pays to take everything into the equation when planning your bets. From the star player’s form heading into the tournament to the harmony within a squad, the small things can often make a big difference.

The Copa America is simply a tournament like no other. It can inspire such incredible football and write stories of glory that will stand for a long time. The beauty, passion, diversity, and each unique cultural gift given to fans make this tournament so special. The opportunity to make some money on the side is simply the cherry on top.