Argentina v Croatia: Messi and Co need to Deliver
With Argentina only able to get a draw in their opening World Cup game against Iceland, Thursday’s game against Croatia carries added importance. It was a match they were expected to win but having dropped two points, the South Americans need something more positive from the Group D tie in Nizhny Novgorod.
The bookies still come down heavily in favour of Argentina but many will see value in the Croatians after they took an early advantage in this section by virtue of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Nigeria.
The Argentinians are odds on favourites with most bookies but elsewhere, they can be picked up at best odds of 11/10 with Black Type. The draw is the second favourite option at 63/25 with MarathonBet while the same bookmaker has the top price on a Croatian victory at 16/5.
Many will point to Lionel Messi’s missed penalty against Iceland and suggest that Argentina would have been worthy winners but it was a subdued performance that needs to improve against a better quality team. Croatia have had their issues off the field, having sent home back up striker Nikola Kalinic but there is enough left in the team to force another draw at least.
Individual Goal Scorers
Before we commit to the result, we’ll take a look at the scoring markets and as you might expect, Lionel Messi is clear favourite to find the net first at best odds of 57/17 with 10Bet and SportPesa. His teammate Sergio Aguero, who opened the scoring against Iceland, follows on at a top price of 5/1 with 10Bet again and just behind is Gonzalo Higuain at a best of 51/10 with Unibet.
Croatia finally get a mention through their main striker Mario Mandzukic who is available at best odds of 38/5 with MarathonBet for the first goal while Luka Modric, who was on target from the penalty spot against Nigeria, is out at a top price of 16/1 with 10Bet and SportPesa.
Modric doesn’t score too many from open play but with more penalty kicks being awarded through VAR, he could be a good pick this time. However, we’ll take Sergio Aguero who looked sharp early on against Iceland and offers a good price compared to the favourite Messi.
We normally like to hedge slightly by heading to the anytime market but Aguero is a little short there at 2/1 with Unibet so we’ll back the Manchester City striker at 5/1 with 10Bet for the first goal.
Other Side Bets
The action from the opening games in Group D suggests we could have another subdued 90 minutes so we’re also interested in taking Under 2.5 goals which is on offer for this one at best odds of 71/100 with MarathonBet.
Croatia have scored just five goals in their last five games and while Argentina have managed ten in the same period of time, four of those strikes came against a weak Haiti team.
Both Teams to Score does, however, seem like a good option when you consider Argentina’s attacking flair combined with a shaky defence. The South Americans have conceded 13 in their last five, a record that includes a 6-1 hammering by Spain, so we’re jumping on BTTS at its top price of 21/20 with SportPesa.
Coming back to the result and this is a tough one to call. When the two squads are compared, the quality in this Argentina side going forward suggests that they should win this but recent results, including that 6-1 reverse to Spain and a 4-2 loss to Nigeria, shows they are vulnerable at the back.
Croatia, meanwhile, may be tighter in defence but not so productive coming forward and the loss of Kalinic under controversial circumstances leaves them short on attacking options.
It all points towards another low scoring draw and we could add a Correct Score tip of 1-1 which is available at 11/2 with Ladbrokes and Unibet but we’ll stick with the following suggestions which will hopefully add up to a profitable 90 minutes.