Argentina are headed into their 16th FIFA World Cup, eleventh straight appearance. The two-time champions and four-time finalists have high hopes for Brazil and odds makers seem to support those with fancied odds in just about every aspect of the tournament. However, Argentina haven’t won the title since 1986; they haven’t reached a final since 1990 when they lost to Germany; and in the last two World Cups – 2006 Germany and 2010 South Africa – they stumbled at the quarterfinal hurdle, both times to Germany incidentally. This prompts the question: do the odds makers have it right or are they overrating the Albiceleste?
Is smart money on Argentina?
On the strength (or lack thereof) of Group F, smart money is definitely on Argentina in the group stage. Argentina have Group F cornered on -450 futures odds to win outright, a country mile ahead of second favourites Bosnia Herzegovina (+600), Nigeria (+900) and Iran (+3300).
That market is underscored further by Argentina’s odds in ‘group qualification markets’ that stand at -2500, displaying the supreme confidence that odds makers have in their ability to advance into the knockout stages. Indeed, if the unthinkable happens and the Albiceleste don’t advance, it would mark one of the biggest upsets in 2014 World Cup betting markets, if not the tournament as a whole.
Beyond the group stage however there’s everything to play for and it might appear that Argentina are being just slightly overrated. Argentina are tipped as the second favourites to win it all at +450, which puts them ahead of Germany (only the side that has repeatedly been a thorn in their side) and (shockingly) the defending World Cup champions Spain. This doesn’t mean Argentina doesn’t warrant a measure of favouritism or a place amongst the Top 4-5 favourites for the title. Only that they appear unjustifiably shorter than the aforementioned tandem.
Argentina won the South American Group with a 9-5-2 mark, which included 35 goals scored and 15 conceded. They opened their qualification campaign with a victory over Chile but stumbled against Venezuela and drew 1-1 with Boliva, which prompted many to question the 2011 Copa America champions’ credentials in the upcoming global showpiece. However, Argentina bounce back and since the draw to Bolivia they went 12 more in a row unbeaten. They did however lose their final game to Uruguay 3-2.
Argentina’s path to win World Cup 2014
When looking at overall outright win markets Argentina are the second faves at +450 to win it all. Those odds correspond to ‘winning group odds’ where a Group F winner is priced also second in line to the title at +400. So let’s plot a potential course for Argentina in order to determine whether they would be a value World Cup pick.
If all goes to plan and Argentina advances into the knockout stages they’ll face a team from Group E in R16 –these are France, Switzerland, Ecuador or Honduras. Odds makers favour France to win Group E, but Switzerland or Ecuador could surprise here. If presented with the opportunity, surely all three teams would fancy their chances against Argentina in the knockouts. France’s offense and Switzerland’s defence though presenting different challenges would be tricky nonetheless. Meanwhile, Ecuador held Argentina to a draw twice – in World Cup qualifying and recent friendly action. Nothing is for certain at this stage by any means.
As well, bear in mind there are two possible scenarios that could occur in the knockouts, which would take Argentina into opposing halves of the draw: a) Argentina wins Group F, they take on the Group E runner-up in the R16 in the bottom-half of the draw. If the improbable happens, Argentina finish runner-up in Group F then they take on the winner of Group E in the top-half of the draw.
By winning Group F: Argentina would fall into the bottom half of the draw, and set on a collision course that could potentially take them up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. in the quarterfinals; that is, assuming Portugal finish runner-up in Group G as sportsbooks expect. (Should Portugal shake things up in Group E and clinch top spot at Germany’s expense, Argentina could face nemesis Germany instead).
Thereafter, on this path through the bottom-half of the draw, things won’t get easier as the winner of Group B, the runner-up of Group A, winner of Group D or the runner-up of Group C would be waiting in the semi-finals – this quartet could include a whole slew of heavyweights from defending champions Spain to World Cup runners-up Holland or a whole slew of options including Colombia, Italy, England or Uruguay or, heck, even the hosts Brazil; that is, should there be an unexpected shakeup and Brazil finish in second place in Group A.
By finishing runner-up in Group F: If Argentina somehow finish runner-up in Group F, they’ll set on a course towards the final in the top-half of the draw – thrusting them on a direct collision course with Group G winners in the quarterfinal, which according to odds makers would be...drumroll...Germany. The very same side that destroyed their World Cup hopes in the last two instalments of the competition and the very same nation to beat Argentina in the 1990 final. [Insert dramatic shiver]
To say that this isn’t a good matchup for them would be an understatement. Best-case scenario: they avoid Germany on this path somehow through a Group G upset for example by USA or Ghana.
Thereafter, on this path through the top-half of the draw, they’ll most likely be in Brazil’s direct line of fire. After all, most World Cup betting experts expect the hosts to make it at least to the semis. So even if somehow Argentina were to advance into the semis, they would potentially have to take on the hosts in order to move into the final.
So Is Argentina a value World Cup Pick?
Argentina are in the bottom-half of the draw and in a soft group, which means they are most likely to avoid Brazil entirely and could only come up against them in a potential final. This notion would appear to explain their favouritism in World Cup betting markets. That and their undeniable quality, underscored by glittering stars –a list of names that includes Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain to name a few.
In any event, the most important thing when considering Argentina for your World Cup picks is to remember World Cup betting doesn’t always go to plan. Matches aren’t played on paper. Anything can happen; many upsets and surprises could occur throughout the competition that would alter the landscape significantly. What’s more the last two World Cups proved a disappointment to Argentina, revealing just how prone to the upset their star-studded team was really. We’re not so sure they’ve solved the dilemma of teamwork and common effort in order to make them one of our recommended top World Cup picks.