Argentina and Belgium both had to work overtime in order to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. The South Americans needed 118 minutes to finally sink Switzerland’s steadfast defense, while Belgium eventually prevailed over the U.S.A. despite the Americans’ valiant efforts.
One would think that Argentina versus Belgium should be another classic offensive vs. defense matchup, much like the Netherlands versus Costa Rica. But Argentina’s formidable attack has been nowhere to be found in this tournament, which could open the door for World Cup sleepers Belgium to sneak into the semifinals.[sc:Soccer ]
Argentina vs. Belgium, World Cup 2014, Quarterfinal Betting Preview and Prediction
Where: Estádio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
When: Saturday, July 5, 2014, 12:00 PM ET
Line: Argentina +103 vs. Belgium +231, tie +216; total 2.0– view all World Cup lines
Betting on Argentina
Switzerland adopted the strategy just about all of Argentina’s World Cup opponents have used so far – to sit back and defend in numbers – in their round of 16 match. It worked to an extent, as they sent the match to extra time. But just like Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran before them, they couldn’t hold out Argentina long enough.
[sc:Soccer240banner ]Lionel Messi, who scored the deciding goal in their first two matches, was once again at the center of the crucial play as his pass set up Angel Di Maria’s winning goal two minutes from the end of extra time.
Through four matches, much of Argentina’s offense has devolved into relying on Messi for moments of magic. Their opponents’ overly defensive tactics have been a major factor and they should expect a similar approach from Belgium in the quarterfinals.
The challenge for manager Alejandro Sabella will be to finally find a solution for that offense-stifling tactic. He switched up his formation earlier in the tournament as per Messi’s request, but it hasn’t worked. He started Ezequiel Lavezzi in place of the injured Sergio Aguero, but he didn’t provide the spark against Switzerland.
There may also be the temptation to just stick with what has been a winning formula and wait for the team’s undoubted quality to shine through. Argentina should still be able to dominate possession and create opportunities, especially if Belgium decides to back off defensively. But with the way they’re playing at the moment, they’re not equipped to win without Messi’s brilliance, which has to run out at some point.
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Betting on Belgium
If Argentina are winning almost solely because of one player, Belgium are succeeding thanks to contributions from all across their team. Amazingly, the six goals Belgium have scored so far in the tournament have come from six different players.
Romelu Lukaku was the latest to join that list after he scored the second and decisive goal in their 2-1 victory against the U.S.A. Lukaku had lost his starting place after a disappointing showing during the group stage, but he changed the complexion of the match as an impact sub. His return to form has suddenly given manager Marc Wilmots yet another weapon ahead of their match with Argentina.
Wilmots has been incredibly adept in pushing the right buttons to maximize arguably Belgium’s biggest strength: depth. Of his team’s six goals, four have now been scored by substitutes off Belgium’s remarkably loaded bench.
Belgium’s other big strength, its defense, has been top notch. After witnessing how other teams like Switzerland have subdued Argentina’s attack all tournament, Wilmots now has a good blueprint to follow in setting up his excellent defense, which has conceded just twice in four matches.
Belgium should also have the personnel to execute a very effective counterattacking setup. Eden Hazard has played a similar tactic with his club Chelsea, while their array of wingers can all break with devastating speed. Argentina’s defense looked particularly vulnerable against the counterattacks of Iran, Nigeria and Switzerland, something Wilmots will hope to exploit.
The likes of Hazard, Lukaku and Dries Mertens all have the pace and quality to make Argentina pay at the back. But if their offense can’t find a way through to goal, their defense is quite capable of also keeping Argentina out for 90 minutes and beyond.
Messi somehow finds a way to once again lift his team to victory against Belgium in another very close and tightly contested match.[sc:Soccer490banner ]
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