Argentina vs Croatia Odds, Picks: Fade Lionel Messi in World Cup Semifinal

Argentina vs Croatia Odds, Picks: Fade Lionel Messi in World Cup Semifinal article feature image

Simon Bruty/Getty. Pictured: Lionel Messi.

Argentina vs. Croatia Odds

Tuesday, Dec. 13
2 p.m. ET
Argentina Odds-118
Croatia Odds+400
Over/Under2.5 (+137 / -175)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No)(+110 / -150)
Odds via bet365. Get the latest World Cup odds here.

The past two World Cup finalists face off in the first World Cup semifinal, as Lionel Messi and Argentina take on Luka Modric and Croatia.

Argentina needed penalty kicks to get by the Netherlands in an extremely hard-fought match that had its fair share of drama.

Messi is now just two matches away from hoisting the World Cup trophy to cement his legacy as the greatest of all time, but he'll have to get by one of the masters of tournament football to do so.

It is seemingly impossible to knock the Croatians out of tournaments and they are excellent at getting matches to extra time.

They were the finalists at the 2018 World Cup and despite all of the difficulties working against them, Croatia have knocked out both Japan and Brazil on penalties to get to their second straight World Cup semifinal.

You have to imagine that the gas tank is getting low for the Croatians after playing 240 minutes in the knockout stage, but it is seemingly foolish to try and predict how much energy they have left after what we've seen over the past two World Cups.

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Argentina Not Playing as Well as Raw Stats Indicate

You may think that because Argentina have amassed the highest xG at the World Cup they're the best team, but not so fast. Argentina have been awarded three penalties and if you take away the match against Poland, they have created 4.5 non-penalty xG in their other four matches.

Even against the Netherlands, the Dutch had a higher xThreat and they had more 10-plus pass sequences than Argentina. Also, if you take away Messi’s penalty against the Netherlands, they created 0.60 xG in regulation.

Netherlands 2 : 2 Argentina

▪ xG: 0.48 – 2.0
▪ xThreat: 1.59 – 1.38
▪ Possession: 52.1% – 47.9%
▪ Field Tilt: 41.5% – 58.5%
▪ Def Line Height: 48.3 –

— markstats bot (@markstatsbot) December 9, 2022

That is a theme for Argentina at this World Cup. They take a ton of low-quality shots, posting an overall 0.11 xG per non-penalty shot so far. That's 13th-best in the World Cup field and they’ve taken just two shots from inside the six-yard box. Only Serbia, Iran, Tunisia and Qatar have taken less. 

Argentina tried to exploit the wide areas against the Netherlands because they opted to to go with a 3-5-2 formation rather than their usual 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, with Nahuel Molina and Marcos Acuna being vitally important.

That eventually led to the first goal, but the same problems have existed for Argentina in that they are obsessed with occupying space in between the lines, forcing Messi to come and receive the ball from the center backs. That tactic is why Rodrigo De Paul has been a no show at this World Cup, as he is occupying the space of a number nine between the lines when he is naturally a central midfielder.

They are going to have to try and break down the Croatians' low block after their fellow South American side Brazil were unable to do for the first 90 minutes of the match.

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Croatia Using Tactics to Their Advantage

Croatia’s ability to not allow Brazil to control the ball was very impressive. They actually ended up with 51% possession in the end and completed more passes than Brazil, which is a big accomplishment against one of the most ball-dominant teams in the world. Croatia even matched Brazil with 49 passes into the final third, showing how even the match was for the first 90 minutes.

spot the difference.

— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) December 9, 2022

Their low block also showed tremendous ability of staying compact and not allowing easy pass or dribbles into the box. Brazil attempted eight dribbles into the box and only completed two of them. They ended up with 38 touches in the penalty area, 21 shots and only had 2.5 xG to show for it. In the first 90 minutes, Croatia held Brazil to 1.57 xG and Brazil only had one shot with an xG rating over 0.2. 

Croatia used a ton of long balls in their build up play against Brazil, but they did it with fantastic success. They hit on over a 70% of those passes. That is likely what they are going to have to do here against Argentina. Croatia also did a great job of creating overloads in the wide areas to create numerical advantages and exploit the main weakness of Brazil’s team, which is the same weakness for Argentina, who have very average fullbacks.

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Argentina vs. Croatia Pick

This is another situation where Argentina are most likely going to be taking a lot of low-quality chances and they will have to try and make risky passes in between Croatia's two defensive lines.

They may try to occupy the wide areas like they did against the Netherlands, but as Croatia have shown throughout this tournament, it's very difficult not only to get into their penalty area, but also to create high quality chances as well.

I only have Argentina projected at +102 for the the first 90 minutes, so I think there is a bit of value on Croatia +0.5 at +105, as they seem to be hard to eliminate in 90 minutes.

The Pick: Croatia +0.5 (+105) 

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