Argentina vs Croatia preview, betting tips and predictions
Messi simply must stand up to be counted
Argentina to win and BTTS @ 7/2 with Betfair
The pressure is on both Argentina and their talisman Lionel Messi to deliver against Croatia in the second match of Group D at this summer’s World Cup. They were monumentally frustrated by debutants and minnows Iceland on Saturday afternoon, drawing 1-1 after taking an initial lead through Sergio Agüero’s first ever goal in the tournament. Alfred Finnbogason scored his country’s inaugural goal in the World Cup and, in truth, it was the least Iceland deserved. They were brave in attack and sturdy in defence, outthinking their opponents at every turn. Messi’s missed penalty took the headlines and now La Albiceleste must beat Croatia in order to take control of the group. That will not be easy, given the way they beat Nigeria, but when Messi is needed, he steps up. We think Argentina will just take the points.
Nigeria offered very little against Croatia, but they did show great patience and tactical variety to win the game. The Super Eagles’ game plan seemed to start and finish with stopping Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, but Croatia broke through the lines using the width of Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic. They have been shaken by the news that striker Nikola Kalinic has been sent home for refusing to come on as a substitute in Saturday’s game. In truth, it is tough to call, and Croatia certainly have the quality to hurt Argentina going forward. The game really does hang in the balance.
Messi can be found at 6/5 to score anytime, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Jorge Sampaoli make some changes to the side. Gonzalo Higuaín started on the bench against Iceland and could come in; he is priced at 7/4 anytime. For Croatia, their best bet is Mario Mandzukic at 3/1. If Sampaoli can find the right formula, his side can cause real problems, but they will always be left open at the back and that is a real worry.
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