Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Prediction: Argentina vs Croatia

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Best Odds: 39/40

Bookmaker: 888sport

The Iceland slip-up leaves Argentina in a desperate hunt for points ahead of a Group D clash against tricky Croatia.

Having made a comfortable start to their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over Nigeria, the Vatreni are in a confident mood ahead of the clash that could help them take a huge step towards the Round of 16.

Argentina

World Cup debutants Iceland proved to be too big of a hurdle for lethargic Argentina at the beginning of their Russian campaign. La Albiceleste were involved in a series of trial and error against the resilient Vikings who even survived a penalty scare as Leo Messi suffered a fluff at the white spot.

The Barcelona star’s spot-kick was saved by Hannes Halldorsson leaving Messi with all the guilt and responsibility for his nation’s blunder. Messi has now missed four of his last seven penalties but the diminutive star will have no time to reflect on his errors as he is now expected to lift his head and lead Argentina forward in an attempt to grab much needed three points. Jorge Sampaoli is under great pressure to deliver and will be expected to ring plenty of changes both is tactical department and his squad selection which was the subject of intense criticism. Argentina manager is expected to go with three men in defense as La Albiceleste plan an all-attack plan for the Croatia game.

Team News

Midfielders Lucas Biglia and Angel Di Maria are likely to be pushed out of the starting line-up after their disappointing showings against Iceland.

Marcos Acuna is expected to be given a nod in the centre of the park while right-back Eduardo Salvio is expected to be tasked with an advanced role upfield.

Croatia

The star-studded Croatia side did well at the World Cup opening as Zlatko Dalic’s men put in a confident display against precarious Nigeria. The Vatreni are on a mission to emulate the nation’s third-place run from France in 1998 but their task is a rather challenging one.

Pitted against the likes of Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina, Croatia were always well aware the Group stage of the competition would be a huge test of their strength and character. A possible victory over Argentina would surely be a massive boost to the team spirit and place Croatia in a great position ahead of the knockout stages. Zlatko Dalic is unlikely to adopt the Icelandic method and switch to a defensive mode for the Argentina game although a couple of changes are expected to the roster and tactics. Croatia manager could also go for three man at the back and pack his midfield with creative players to respond to Argentina’s expected possession play.

Team News

Striker Nikola Kalinic has been sent home after refusing to come off the bench as a substitute against Nigeria.

Kalinic is said to be suffering from a back injury although various reports claim he was unhappy with his substitute status.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Leo Messi missed four of the last seven penalties he took
  • Argentina are expected to switch to a three-man defense line-up
  • Nikola Kalinic has been sent home after refusing to come on as a sub vs Nigeria
  • Leo Messi scored a winning penalty in a 2-1 triumph last time these sides met (2014)
  • Croatia and Argentina have conceded eight and 13 goals, respectively, in last 10 matches

Conclusion

Argentina lock horns with Croatia in a highly-anticipating match in Group D which could potentially see the Vatreni qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup. La Albiceleste hopes of going through are hanging by a thread after a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland and we expect to see a rather open-minded display from Sampaoli’s men which could lead into a highly entertaining match.

Verdict: Both teams to score – yes

Best Odds: 39/40

Bookmaker: 888sport

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