Argentina overcame a shaky start to their World Cup campaign, and with the help of a spirited victory over Mexico in their second Group C match, they advanced past a weak Poland team on Wednesday.
The South American champions missed a contentious first-half penalty kick that would have given talisman Lionel Messi the chance to open the scoring, but they were ultimately rewarded for their 90-minute dominance by moving ahead of their European rivals at the top of the group standings.
A goal from Julian Alvarez in the 67th minute helped the Albiceleste secure a second straight 2-0 victory after Alexis Mac Allister, who had been promoted to the starting lineup as one of the coach Lionel Scaloni’s few lineup changes, scored just after the halftime break.
Messi still carries a significant portion of the creative load, the Copa America-winning coach can turn to a number of talented players who have emerged from his squad’s periphery, including Mac Allister, Alvarez, and Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez, to combat concerns about fatigue.
Argentina’s irreplaceable playmaker will surely be integral again, as they attempt to set up a quarter-final with either the Netherlands or United States, but he will need plenty of help from the supporting cast that put on a 36-game unbeaten streak only ended last week.
Given the disparity in football stature between the two countries, it is not surprising that Australia has lost each of their last four encounters with Argentina, although the Socceroos managed to win 2-0 when two very different teams met at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
But before they arrive in Al Rayyan for their meeting with destiny—playing in the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time since the storied “golden generation” of 2006—Graham Arnold’s team is riding the crest of a wave.
The underdog Socceroos upset the odds to finish second in Group D behind the defending champions France, and they did so only on goal differential after winning two of their three games, against Tunisia and then Denmark.
Both a valiant rearguard effort led by Harry Souttar and goalkeeper Mat Ryan, as well as a wonderful winning goal from Matthew Leckie, were necessary to defeat the latter 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium. This goal broke the deadlock in the 60th minute and ultimately advanced them to the round of 16.
Despite the euphoria their historic victory unleashed, the pragmatic Australian team, which is largely composed of players on the periphery of things at their European clubs, will be acutely aware of the step-up in class that awaits on Saturday.
1×2 Betting Odds
It should come off as no surprise that Argentina are the favourites to win this one. Their odds stand @ 1.24.
Australia are the huge underdogs coming into this, and they need a miracle or two if they want to see Lionel Messi crash out of the World Cup. Their odds stand @ 17.
The chances that the match ends in a draw after 90 minutes of play, stands @ 7.4.
By winning Group C, Argentina avoided playing the defending champions, and they’ll be motivated to use their improved play to advance further. While a tenacious Australia team may be able to contain them for stretches, there should unquestionably be only one victor if the Albiceleste show their undeniable skill in the final third.
Total goals over/under
The odds that the total number of goals score will be over 2.5, stands @ 1.83.
While the odds that the total number of goals will be under 2.5, stands @ 2.1.