Argentina would have been thankful to see the quarter-final between Brazil and Croatia go all the way to penalties, knowing that whoever made it through to face them would have had plenty of extra minutes in their legs. That became a moot point though when Wout Weghorst scored two late goals to take Argentina v Netherlands to extra-time and penalties too, and it’s now a level playing field in that regard heading into this mammoth clash.
Not many would have predicted Croatia to repeat their 2018 heroics when they were the surprise act in the final, though they now sit just one win away from that stage again and shouldn’t be taken lightly by Argentina, and judging by La Albiceleste’s recent record against European sides on the world stage.
Indeed, since beating all of England, Belgium and Germany en route to World Cup glory in 1986, Argentina have only won one of their 14 knockout matches against UEFA sides since (in 90 minutes), with that coming 1-0 against Belgium again back in the 2014 quarter-finals. They’ve drawn over half of those games, including four of their last five and Croatia are another extremely difficult side to overcome, as they proved against Brazil at the weekend.
A draw fits Croatia’s narrative too, as when including the Euros, eight of their last nine knockout matches have been level after 90 minutes, a run stretching back to 1998 with the exception coming in the 2018 World Cup final against France, so they’re no stranger to extra time themselves.
Croatia To Qualify For The Final
This will be game of fine margins, as World Cup semi-finals usually are. Indeed, 15 of the last 16 semis have been separated by a maximum of one goal stretching back to 1986, while the exception came in Germany’s 7-1 drubbing of Brazil.
There’s a chance there’ll be goals here as while Argentina have been defensively solid over the last few years, they’ve conceded five goals already this tournament, while Croatia have faced 2.0 xGApG so far, and have been quite heavily reliant on the form of Dominik Livakovic. With that said, semi-finals have been relatively low scoring over the years, with 17 out of the last 22 seeing under 2.5 goals land, and in these crunch matches we’re happy to avoid an overs bet.
The value seems to be with the underdog Croatia. This will be a game of fine margins and they look overpriced considering their recent knockout pedigree. They have quality all over the pitch and while Luka Modric is their bright spark in midfield, they don’t seem as heavily reliant on him as Argentina are on Lionel Messi, and at the price, we’ll back the European side to qualify.
CROATIA TO QUALIFY FOR THE FINAL
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