Argentina seek their first win of this World Cup when they take on Croatia on Thursday. The pessure is on for Messi and La Albiceleste, who squandered opportunities in their opener and are now at risk of missing the next round.
Argentina vs. Croatia Odds
Odds are close in this matchup, with Argentina only a narrow favorite. They are +138 on the three-way moneyline according to OddsShark.com, and are a -115 favorite when laying .5 goals. OddsShark’s moneyline consensus indicates that over 66 percent of bettors are siding with Argentina.
The OddsShark computer, which has been on an impressive run in this tournament, is projecting a 1.9-1.4 win for Argentina.
Croatia is priced at +200 to win outright, and -110 when getting .5 goals. The draw is priced at +230.
The over/under for this match is two goals, with the over priced around -140 and the under at -110.
Argentina vs. Croatia Prediction
Lionel Messi took 11 shots against Iceland, including a penalty, and went scoreless.
That simply cannot happen if Argentina is to continue in this tournament.
Things could get more complicated against Croatia, who boast one of the most talented midfields in the tournament. Messi’s Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitic, along with Madrid’s Luka Modric, should give Argentina all they can handle in the middle.
Argentina are not alone in their World Cup struggles. As OddsShark contributor Andrew Avery notes, the entire continent of South America has had a bumpy ride in Russia, going 2-2-2 in straight results and a disappointing 0-5-1 against the spread. The under bet has also cashed in five of six matches involving South American teams.
One player who could turn around Argentina’s fortune is Cristian Pavon. He’s a relatively unknown talent, playing his club football for Boca Juniors and only making his international debut in November. But the 20-year old winger is electric, and made the most of his time as a sub against Iceland. Jorge Sampaoli may be looking to inject some energy into his squad on Thursday, and the result could be Pavon’s first international start.
After one match, it’s time to start factoring the standings into how teams are playing these results. Now that Croatia has three points, manager Zlatko Dali has urged his team to relax for this second match.
“The match against Argentina is the easiest game for us at the World Cup because we have three points and we play against a big opponent,” he told reporters earlier this week. “We have nothing to lose in that game. I’ll tell my players before the start of the game just to enjoy the spectacle.”
While Croatia is just enjoying the spectacle, this is close to a must-win for Argentina. Three points would be a massive boost, especially if Iceland manage a win over Nigeria on Friday.
The desperation, combined with a revenge narrative for Messi, give me a strong feeling that Argentina will give it their all. Despite Croatia being the better team, I think Messi will carry his team to victory.
Prediction: 2-1 Argentina