If you asked any football fan ahead of the World Cup what one of the possible semifinal matches would be, only a few would say Argentina vs Croatia.
This clash was a possible outcome for many OKBet players. However, this draw will garner attention, given how these two sides made it to this point of the competition. Croatia managed to survive two thrillers, while Argentina had to outlast a resurging Netherlands squad in the quarterfinals.
Both teams feature high-quality players, so even the most neutral fan can expect cutting passes, hard tackles, and fantastic saves. This piece will break down the key players, possible outcomes, and the betting odds ahead of this highly anticipated game.
Lionel Messi led La Albiceleste for more than a decade, and he’s showcased his class over the past couple of years. Expect him to lead the charge against Croatia as they attempt to make their second World Cup finals in three tournaments.
Argentina had a close shave against the Netherlands after blowing a 2-0 lead ten minutes before the normal time finished. They were comfortably ahead after the 70th minute when Messi converted his penalty against Dutch keeper Andries Noppert, the same keeper who claimed Messi also missed penalties days before the game.
After neither team converted goals during extra time, Argentina entered their first penalty shootout of the tournament. Messi stepped up first and coolly made his goal in front of legions of delighted Argentina fans.
The rest of the Albiceleste also stepped up to the plate. Emiliano Martinez saved attempts by Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis. Enzo Fernandez made Argentina nervous after narrowly missing his shot. Fortunately, Leandro Paredes, Gonzalo Montiel, and Lautaro Martinez scored their spot kicks to send Argentina to a top-four finish.
Messi will be the primary focus of the Croat defense when the game kicks off at Lusail Stadium. He’s been incredibly prolific throughout the World Cup, netting four goals and two assists in five starts. Zlatko Dalic will likely have two to three men guard the PSG forward whenever he has the ball in their half.
Lionel Scaloni should use this intense focus on Messi to bring more bodies forward and score. Lautaro Martinez, Alexis Mac Allister, and Julian Alvarez must convert any chances Messi creates for them.
Look at Croatia’s current run since the last World Cup: you’ll see that they enjoy playing drawn-out matches against high-caliber competition. All the knockout matches the Vatreni won over the previous two World Cups were settled either in penalties or extra time.
Their most recent triumph, a nerve-wracking penalty shootout against Brazil, was an on-brand win for the Croats. They managed to stop Neymar in his tracks and dull the edges of Brazil’s attack. Any shots the Canarinho had on goal were immediately neutered by Dalic’s 4-4-2.
Dominik Livakovic was again Croatia’s man of the hour during this shootout. He stopped Rodrygo’s penalty to the right to set the tone for the Vatreni. Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric, and Mislav Orsic scored their penalties to send Croatia to their third semifinal appearance.
Modric will be highly motivated to make it back to the finals and finish the job they failed to achieve last time. The 37-year-old may be past his creative best, but he’s still the solid rock in the middle that the Croatian national team is built on.
The rest of the squad will be equally hungry to win it all. Dejan Lovren will do everything in his power to stop Messi. Ivan Perisic will continue to be the creative outlet from the left wingback position.
Goalkeepers aren’t usually the stars in football matches. However, this World Cup proved that you need high-quality keepers to make it far into the competition. Argentina and Croatia have in-form shot-stoppers who can change the game’s flow with one save.
Livakovic may have needed help from the post to win the shootout. Still, the fact that Marquinhos crumbled under pressure is a testament to how great of a keeper the Dinamo Zagreb keeper has been. Livakovic said after the match that Croatia is a squad of fighters, but few can match the amount of fight the 6’1” goalie showcased.
Meanwhile, Emiliano Martinez was the toast of many Argentine football fans in Qatar. His energy on the pitch was infectious, with some football analysts taking delight at how he celebrated after saving two of the Netherlands’ shot attempts.
Most Argentina vs Croatia betting odds sees this as a sure-fire victory for the Albiceleste. However, Croatia’s win over Brazil reminds fans that they should never count the Vatreni out during high-pressure situations.
Argentina will win this game if Messi manages to run free amid Croatia’s trees. His offensive firepower is always a dangerous threat, and his influence on the pitch will force at least one Croatia defender to run out of his position for his teammates to push into and score. Should everything go Messi’s way, Argentina would run away as 2-1 winners.
However, Croatia will push Argentina’s attack to the limit. Given how well they’ve silenced Japanese and Brazilian attackers, they’ll be doing everything they can to prevent Messi and company from scoring.
If they manage to head into the penalty shootout, they have a much better chance of winning. The pressure on Argentina’s shoulders to bring Messi to the finals may become too much to bear.
The OKBet odds also favor La Albiceleste. However, the wise bettor should also look into Croatia’s odds for a better chance of winning.
|1X2||Handicap||Goals O/U @ 2||1X2 Half||Handicap Half||Goals O/U Half @ 0.5/1|
The 1X2 market predicts Argentina to easily cruise past Croatia, with the Vatreni at 4.35 odds. However, history looks at any bet on Croatia as a sound investment. The 1X2 halftime market also looks at things ending nil-nil.
Meanwhile, the handicap market heavily favors Croatia. Given how their last two knockout games ended in penalty shootouts, betting at Croatia with a +0.5 handicap is a sure win. Meanwhile, the Over/Under market favors neither side scoring in the first half and only both getting a goal to push the game to extra time.
If you’re looking for punts to include in your parlay bets, the recommended punts would be a Draw in the 1X2 market; Croatia is a great shout in the Handicap; Over 2 Goals in the Over/Under market is a winning bet.