There’s always interest when a UEFA nation comes up against a CONMEBOL side, which is exactly what is on the cards when Croatia face Argentina. This will be their second meeting at a World Cup and first since 1998 when Argentina won 1-0. Ironically, Croatia finished that tournament in 3rd place, while the Argentines were eliminated in the quarter-finals.
Croatia’s loss at the 1998 World Cup is typical of their performances against teams from South America – only once in ten attempts have they beaten a nation from this region, although the win did come against Argentina. They have lost all four matches against CONMEBOL members at the World Cup (Brazil twice, Ecuador and Argentina).
By contrast, Argentina’s record against European nations at the World Cup is decent, having won 50% of their matches and lost 33%.
Both teams will come into this match knowing that failure to pick up all three points could leave them vulnerable in one of the more challenging groups at this year’s tournament. Argentina will be aware that they still need to play a dangerous Nigerian side before they finish their group matches, while Croatia will be wary of an Iceland team that got the better of them in their qualification match. Neither will want to lose this match.
Argentina remain in the top five according to the FIFA rankings, while Croatia are not too far behind having entered the tournament well inside the top twenty. There is certainly a feeling that Argentina boast the better playing roster, especially considering they can rely on arguably the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, although Croatia too have plenty of top-class players who play in some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
The Argentines will unsurprisingly start this match as the favourite, although the odds will be much closer than in their fixture against Iceland. At -111, there is definite value in placing a head to head wager on the likely group winners, although one should be cautious considering the lack of goals that Argentina scored during the last World Cup and also qualification. The draw is certainly in play here at +248.
Croatia start at +305, not a distant outsider by any means. They have a chance of gaining a point here, and if Argentina fall into a rut like they did during qualifying, there is a chance Croatia could jag an upset victory. However we are sticking with the South Americans, who should gain victory if they play anywhere near their best soccer. A hard fought 1-0 victory to mirror their 1998 match is our favoured result.