Group D: Argentina – World Cup Betting Odds & Tips
Argentina struggled in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup but having made it to Russia, their status as two-time champions means they are sure to be dangerous.
La Albiceleste have lurched from one disaster to another in recent years but Jorge Sampaoli came in to save the day and the squad are only likely to improve the more time they have to adapt to his famously idiosyncratic tactics. However, much of their gameplan will revolve around star man Lionel Messi and they will need to find a way to bring the best out of the Barcelona ace.
This is likely to be the 30-year-old’s last World Cup and he showed his influence in netting a hat-trick in the final qualifier. Despite his genius, he is still to truly perform at the global showpiece, despite being part of the Argentine side that reached the final four years ago in Brazil.
In Messi’s defence, he has played in an era when Argentina has struggled to produce rounded squads and their current crop is again unbalanced. Sampaolo has an embarrassment of attacking riches to select from but his cupboard is somewhat barer at the back and in midfield.
A lack of full-backs is a particular worry, while goalkeeper Sergio Romero is also still playing second fiddle at Manchester United.
Group D could prove tricky and the South Americans will be desperate to set the tone in their opening game against Iceland, a fixture they are 1.36 to win, with the draw 4.50 while the Scandinavians are 9.50 to cause a big shock.
They then face Croatia and Nigeria but will expect to qualify and go deep in the tournament. At 9.00, Argentina are the fifth favourites to win the tournament and their fans will be hoping Sampaoli has learned the lessons from the past.
Four years ago, Alejandro Sabella showed it is possible to sculpt the majority of the current players into a cohesive unit and the incumbent needs to take note if he is to enjoy any sort of success in Russia.