Messi, Modric Set to Light Up World Cup in Early Group Action

Martin Green

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 2:10 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2018 2:10 PM UTC

There are four exciting World Cup games in Groups C and D on Saturday, including Argentina playing Iceland as Lionel Messi looks to dazzle fans with his brilliance once again.

World Cup: Saturday's Tips and PicksFrance v Australia (6 a.m. ET)

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This game looks like a total mismatch, as France’s squad is teeming with world-class talent and it should easily overwhelm the Socceroos. French manager Didier Deschamps can call upon the services of three of the five most expensive footballers of all time in Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Paul Pogba. Throw in superstar striker Antoine Griezmann and midfield general N’Golo Kante and you have a sensational side. The defence is anchored by Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, while Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris is a solid goalkeeper. It is hard to imagine a single Australian player making it into this French squad. They have a decent midfield of Aaron Mooy, Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak, but they lack quality in attack and defence. They are tipped to finish bottom of Group C, while France should win it at a canter. As such, the French are the heavy favourites to win this game, priced at -400 with Bet365, while Australia are +1200. To get more value, you could go for France -1.5 in the handicap betting at +101 with Pinnacle, or France to win and under 3.5 goals at -115 with Betway. Australia’s new coach prefers a pragmatic, defensive style, so the scoreline should not be too heavy.

Argentina v Iceland (9 a.m. ET)

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With a similar population to Cincinnati, Ohio, or Lexington, Kentucky, Iceland is the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup. However, they have impressed in recent years and they topped a competitive qualifying group that also featured Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine. Gylfi Sigurdsson is the star playmaker, and the rest of the team works extremely hard to stifle their opponents. They beat England at Euro 2016, so they are not to be taken lightly. Yet Argentina should still win this Group D opener. They may not be great in defence or midfield, but going forward they are positively sensational. Lionel Messi led them to the World Cup final last time around, and he will be the driving force once again. He has stars like Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria around him, and that sort of firepower should be enough to secure victory against a determined but limited Iceland side. Argentina -1 is +105 with Bet365, while Messi to "score at any time" looks great at -150.

Peru v Denmark (12 p.m. ET)

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This game could decide which team follows France into the knockout stage. The French should win Group C, and the Australians are widely expected to finish bottom, so the runner-up spot is likely to be contested by Peru and Denmark. The Danes have the slight advantage in the betting lines, and they looked impressive in securing a 2-0 victory over Mexico in a friendly last week. Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen is in magnificent form and he will cause all manner of problems for the Peruvian defence. But Peru have not lost a game since 2016, and that run includes draws against strong teams like Argentina and Colombia. This is likely to be a tight, cagey affair, and a draw looks appealing at +225 with Bet365. "Under" 2.5 goals also looks interesting at -121 with Pinnacle.

Croatia v Nigeria (3 p.m. ET)

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This Group D affair should prove to be a fascinating contest between a technically brilliant Croatia team and a supremely athletic Nigeria side. A quick glance at the squads tells you the Croatians are blessed with superior players. Real Madrid star Luka Modric will pull the strings in midfield alongside Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic. Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic will lead the line with aplomb, while Serie A duo Ivan Perisic and Nikola Kalinic are extremely dangerous, as is Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric. Nigeria’s star player is Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, and he has not exactly lit up the Premiership of late. They have a great deal of pace from the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa, while Jon Obi Mikel provides experience and steel in the midfield, but ultimately a lack of quality could let them down. A Croatia win at -138 with Pinnacle looks like a great option in this game.

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