Two teams that have been well-backed to win World Cup 2014 face-off when Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina meets Marc Wilmots’ Belgium in this quarter-final tie from the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasilia, Brazil.
Argentina (6/5, BetVictor) opened up their World Cup campaign by defeating Bosnia 2-1. It wasn’t the sort of dominant offensive performance that you’d expect, but they got the job done and Messi, effectively, scored the winning goal.
Four-time World Player of the Year Messi had, in truth, spent most of that game giving the ball away and looked well below par. However, even when he’s not playing well, Messi can still appear on either flank, cut in, drift past a player and score – as he did in Argentina’s second game, a 1-0 defeat of Iran.
So, not at his lofty, super-human best, Messi looks no different than he had done for Barcelona in the latter months of last season, except he’s scoring in every game for Argentina.
Messi (11/10 Anytime, BetVictor) bagged a brace in Argentina’s third and final group stage game, a 3-2 defeat of Nigeria, and with Higuain off-the-boil and Aguero injured, Barca’s number 10 really is the main reason as to why Argentina won all of their group stage games.
However, Messi was marked out of the game when Argentina faced Switzerland in the second round and didn’t score. Di Maria, who was assisted by Messi, netted the winner in the dying moments of extra time.
All in all, Argentina have not impressed in Brazil, and their defence – which conceded to Bosnia and Nigeria – looks shaky, particularly in the left-back position.
Belgium (14/5, Coral) didn’t play as well as they were expected to against Algeria, having to come from behind to eventually win 2-1 through Fellaini and Mertens goals.
Defensively, Belgium looked a little shaky – evidenced in part by the penalty they gave away – but with their goals coming in the 70th and 80th minutes, Wilmots’ boys continued their habit of having to rely on late goals to win games.
Against a Russian side that struggled to score goals, and mixing in the late Belgium goals factor, I deduced that the HT/FT bet of Draw/Belgium was the best bet against Capello’s boys.
Indeed, it was the correct bet as Belgium won 1-0 after forcing an 88th minute own goal. One again, but this time against South Korea, Draw/Belgium yielded profit as Wilmots’ charges won 1-0 after an 88th minute Vertonghen goal.
Finishing atop Group H, Belgium then played the Group G runners-up, USA, in the second round. In the most entertaining 0-0 game I’ve seen in Brazil 2014, the usual Draw/Belgium bet didn’t work, but Belgium eventually won 2-1 after extra-time.
Now, the favoured Draw/Belgium (7/1, SkyBet) wager is worth considering against Argentina, especially given the price, but it appears riskier than normal with Messi on show.
Collectively it seems unlikely that Wilmots’ defence can marshal the little Argentine as well as the Swiss did, but maybe Kompany can handle him?
I simply don’t know for sure and can only guess that ‘maybe’ is the answer, but with this quarter-final set to be played in the daytime heat, just the half time draw (21/20, Stan James) has appeal, in any game really – and it’s won in 3/4 of Belgium’s and 2/4 of Argentina’s matches in Brazil.
This could be considered a bold move in a knock-out round, but the weakness of each side is their respective defences, so both teams to score has appeal at 21/20 with Coral.
Of course, we must take into account that pragmatic approaches and low scoring games are expected at this stage of a World Cup, but BTTS would be 4/6 or 8/13 is this was a friendly match, so the odds do reflect the extra risk – and just enough for me to have a reduced stakes bet, along with a punt on a half time stalemate.