Tim Groothuis, USA Today Sports
Croatia vs. Argentina, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
- Croatia +283
- Argentina +117
- Draw +236
Bet to Watch:
Under 2.25 goals* -117
Heading into the 2018 World Cup, you could make the argument that no player had more pressure on his shoulders than Lionel Messi. In fact, his coach Jorge Sampaoli said, “Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn’t win it, he’s shot and killed, as a result, he can’t enjoy his talent.”
After one game, that revolver has turned into a bazooka. Not only did Argentina fail to find a win against a plucky underdog in Iceland, but Messi’s main rival Cristiano Ronaldo is well on his way to the Golden Boot.
The opener versus Iceland saw Argentina have 78% of the possession and dominate the entire game. It looked like they would find a winner when Messi stepped up to take a penalty late in the game, but he missed it. As the game went on, you can see the frustration building within Messi and the entire team.
The rumors are that Sampaoli is going to change the squad and formation heading into the tilt with Croatia. All signs point to him adopting a 3-4-2-1, with Angel Di Maria hitting the bench in favor of Cristian Pavon. How this will affect Messi and the rest of the team will be interesting to watch.
Unfortunately for Argentina, they will need to deal with Croatia, who are arguably the best team in the group. The Vatreni were able to methodically dominate their opener vs. Nigeria without allowing so much as a scoring chance. On the other hand, Argentina proved in their opener that they were not able to break down a stout defense. Compounding the issue is that a draw suits Croatia quite well here, as a point would see them become the heavy favorite to win the group.
I think we’ll see a low-scoring game as the Croatians are very disciplined in the back and Argentina are throwing out a completely revamped lineup. That said, Messi is still the best player on the planet, and if there is one guy who can overcome that kind of pressure, it’s him.