World Cup Argentina v Australia tips: Messi & co to prove a bridge too far for the Socceroos

With the group stage of the World Cup behind us, Tipstrr's football expert Sergiu Baltuta has been looking for the best betting value in one of the many intriguing last-16 matches.

Argentina will play against Australia for a place in the quarterfinals, with both teams having had to navigate a difficult path to the knockout stage after losing their opening group games.

Australia's 4-1 loss to France makes them only the third team in World Cup history to qualify after conceding four goals in their opening game, while Argentina were shell-shocked after their stunning 2-1 defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

The Socceroos would be the first to admit they are not the prettiest team to watch, but what they lack in creative flair they more than make up for with their work ethic and compact organisation.

That combination of efficiency and defensive resilience was enough to hold both Tunisia and Denmark at bay, while going forward they made the most of their limited chances in front of goal, and their two 1-0 wins highlighted the effectiveness of their game plan.

It was the first time Australia have managed to win two consecutive games at a World Cup, and they have done so by scoring three goals (one in each group game) from only seven shots on target across all three matches. 

It seems incongruous that the team led by Graham Arnold managed to finish level on points with France after being dominated in all three games, with their highest ball possession surprisingly being the 35% they enjoyed against France.

Against Argentina, Australia's problems might start if they concede first, a scenario they obviously did not face in either of their 1-0 wins, but it would be a greater test of their character and their quality if they have to chase a game such as this. 

Indeed, as proved the case when France asserted their superiority, an early Argentina goal might well lead to a comfortable win for the South Americans.

After the shock of their opening defeat against Saudi Arabia, Argentina dug deep to prove their class and ended up on top of the group after completely dominating Poland in their final game, when they bossed 67% ball possession, completed 862 passes and had 13 shots on target in a game they controlled from the first minute.

At least on paper the game against Australia appears easier since they are facing a team lacking the quality to cause them serious problems. But it's also worth remembering that Argentina did not really spark to life until Lionel Messi's strike broke the deadlock more than an hour into their eventual 2-0 win over Mexico.

Tellingly, for the must-win Poland game Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni switched from a 4-4-2 formation, headed by Messi and Lautaro Martinez, to a more adventurous 4-3-3 that saw Martinez benched in favour of Julian Alvarez, with Angel Di Maria making up a more dynamic front three.

Whether he sticks to the same line-up on Saturday might depend on players' recovery less that 72 hours after the Poland game, but the short rest time should not be an issue for 22-year-old Alvarez, who will be eager to add to his goal which should be enough earn him another start.

  • Sergiu Baltuta provides football tips as SVB Tips on the Tipstrr platform

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