2014 World Cup Picks: Argentina vs. Belgium

Nila Amerova

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 11:46 AM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 2, 2014 11:46 AM UTC

The R16 was put to bed last night with Argentina and Belgium clinching the remaining two spots in the World Cup quarterfinals. Which side will succumb in the semi finals? Find out as we breakdown the odds and deliver our World Cup betting verdict.

Argentina Tested by Switzerland
As in preceding R16 matches where the favourites were tested by the underdogs, so was the case in the final day of R16 betting. Argentina were given a right run for their money by Switzerland but, just like said R16 matches, they prevailed in order to come through on their fancied odds.

La Albiceleste failed to breakdown the Swiss in regular time. The Swiss defended stoically and it worked for them for the most part as they effectively rendered Argentina’s lethal attacking potential ineffective. Going into extra time, the Swiss continued to defend stoically and very nearly pushed the match into penalties. They even came close to sinking Argentina’s World Cup hopes altogether. Then Lionel Messi, Argentina’s lone performer at these finals, sent up a lovely pass that Di Maria found in the box and tucked behind the Swiss keeper just two minutes before the end of extra time. Game over. Argentina win 1-0.

Messi is living up to his billing as a game-changing player. He’s been at the heart of just about every single goal Argentina have fashioned at this finals. Personally, he’s scored four goals and he leads the top goal scorer market at +250; ironically, he’s priced ahead of James Rodriguez (at +275) with five goals.

Argentina’s run through the finals and Lionel Messi’s form is not mutually exclusive but rather part and parcel. One and the same, you could say. But how long can Argentina rely simply on Lionel Messi to deliver? After all, football is not an individual sport. One man can’t win the title, surely.

Belgium Tested by USA
USA were robbed. Tim Howard was robbed. It’s so unfair but that is the reality. The final R16 clash between Belgium and USA was yet another dramatic affair that saw an underdog – the Americans in this case – meet with heartache and disappointment despite a heroic effort.

After a rather uneventful, cautious and nervy 90 minutes, the match went into extra time. [Cue: late drama] The ensuing 30 minutes exploded to a feverish tempo, as both sides all of a sudden took more risks and chances. All bets were off as wave upon wave of attack flowed back and forth down the pitch. Tim Howard was, arguably, the best player for USA, as he loomed large between the posts, stopping everything the Belgian attack sent his way. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep them out forever, not when his defenders weren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Barely a few minutes into extra time, Belgium broke through the backline and beat Howard for the first time. Almost 12 minutes later, Romelu Lukaku beat Howard, drilling a shot over his head into the net. Belgium were up 2-0 in the first half of extra time.

USA countered in the second half when Green took a ball out of the air and fired it past Belgium’s keeper. They even came close to equalising in the dying minutes of the match, but too many opportunities were spurned and, eventually, the clock just ran out. Game over. Belgium win 2-1. 

Argentina vs. Belgium Betting Tips & Picks:
Argentina are installed as the favourites at +115 to win outright, a market stance that is entirely correlated to Lionel Messi’s form, surely. Let’s face it, Argentina as a whole have been rather underwhelming at this finals. Where is the lethal attack that all and sundry hyped up at the start of the tournament? Gone MIA it would seem because nobody has seen it in action as yet. Then again, if you have a player of Messi’s ilk on your bench, a player that can practically win matches alone – a fact that goes against established notions and the very team essence of the game – the rest needn’t bother. He’s got it covered.

Belgium’s offense was also hyped up ahead of the World Cups, but we’ve yet to see it in full flight. We’ve seen snippets of delirious attacking. Mostly, we’ve seen defence, a lot of stoic defending. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it,” as the adage goes. Defence after all wins games.

Bookmakers install Belgium as the +275 underdogs in the match, which is a rather high price tag considering they’ve won all their matches so far. Clearly, they aren’t putting much stock in a Belgium win this time around, not at the expense of Argentina. Does that mean World Cup bettors shouldn’t either?

What if Belgium take a page from all the matches played against Argentina so far. We already know the Red Devils are great at defending by their defensive output in this finals. We also know that the best way to stifle Argentina’s attack is to defend sensibly against them. What’s more, common reason dictates that Messi can’t keep it up forever either. Something has to give, eventually. So, adding all these things up, we could finally have a bit of a surprise in the knockouts.

World Cup Betting Verdict
If Argentina keep relying on Messi alone, they’ll find themselves in a spot of trouble. If not against Belgium, against another team surely that has both the defensive wherewithal and offensive might to make them pay. Belgium do have both in spades. Problem is we’ve not seen both aspects of their game light up at the same time. If they get that formula right, watch if they don’t dump Argentina in the quarterfinals.

Back Argentina at +115 if you are a conformist, happiest to fall in line with the odds makers (heck, they got the R16 right). Back Belgium at +275 if you are a cautious optimist; keep in mind, they were amongst the top favourites at the start of the competition so it’s not a bet completely out of sync with the finals.

World Cup Picks: Belgium to win outright at +275

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