through to R16 unimpressively
Argentina are through to the R16 on a rather unimpressive note in group play. Group F was one of the weakest groups of the competition proper. Argentina were expected to ride roughshod over the soft field that included debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. However, somewhat surprisingly, Argentina have laboured through two matches, both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran proving difficult to breakdown. Obviously, how they will fare against a dangerous Nigeria in their final act of the group stage is going to be telling, if not deciding towards their campaign in the broad spectrum of the tournament.
Argentina began slowly against Bosia-Herzegovina. Sure, they got on the scoreboard in the first three minutes, but it was an own goal by Kolasinac that gave the white and blue the leg up. It wasn’t until late in the second half when the Argentines finally netted an own effort – surprise, surprise – courtesy of Messi, who scored in the 65th minute. Bosnia-Herzegovina did get one back, but it was all a little bit too late.
Once again, Messi proved the hero in the second match against Iran. He needed but one shot to take the wind out of Iran’s sails. It came very, very late in the match, though, when Messi tucked the ball past the keeper in stoppage time and, in turn, rescued Argentina from potential disaster and post-match backlash.
Given all the talent contained within Argentina’s bench, their group account is somewhat perplexing. Are they simply taking it easy in a soft group, saving their energy for a gruelling knockout run instead? If so, they could be the value World Cup pick to win outright at + 350 to +450, or thereabouts depending on your sportsbook of choice. Then again, this could be yet another case of flattering to deceive – something they’ve done in the last few World Cups. Problem with Argentina: the sum of its individual stars is better than its whole. It’s been the case in recent finals. It may well prove to be so again with too many stars desperate to become a national hero, not enough play as a team to win games.
Nigeria in play to win Group F
Nigeria succumbed to a draw against a stubborn Iran in the first round, and then went on to beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in the second round. The sum of their group account thus far leaves them in second place on four points, with a shot at not only advancing into the knockouts, but also to win Group F, which is a World Cup pick matched at +700. Naturally, Argentina are the hot favourites to accomplish the feat at -1100. Nigeria are tipped the whopping favourites at -700 to simply advance, a feat that they would accomplish with a tie or win over Argentina.
Iran in play to advance
Nigeria’s position in the table is precarious. If Nigeria lose to Argentina, Iran could leapfrog into second spot with a win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in the last lap. Odds maker’s aren’t expecting such a scenario, with Nigeria installed as the favourites to simply advance at -700, while Iran are the long shots at +500. Still, it’s mathematically possible. Therefore, Nigeria can’t take anything for granted. In fact, it’s not so improbable a scenario, especially given the fact that Nigeria are slated to take on favourites Argentina in the final lap, while Iran have the much easier task against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a side already out of the competition.
World Cup Betting Verdict
Group F is proving tighter than pre-World Cup predictions suggested. Most pundits and experts alike, though, expect that Argentina will finally light up in the finals, deliver their most convincing performance yet. But isn’t that just wishful thinking, born of preconceived notions about Argentina? Presented with the reality of their output, it’s difficult to find anything that is remotely encouraging or championship-calibre. They’ve been rather dull in group play, and Messi’s goals aside, the sum total contribution of the rest of the side’s glamorous litter is a big, fat ZERO. Could Argentina then be in for a rude awakening against Nigeria instead?