Lionel Messi has heated up. Messi came into this World Cup never having scored a goal in the knockout round. But that is just what he did against Australia. And that gave him three for this tournament and nine overall in his career in World Cup competition.
He has been named world player of the year nine times. However, missing from his storied career is a championship in the biggest tournament of all.
World Cup odds for Argentina-Netherlands
To get there, he and his Argentinian teammates must get by the Netherlands on Friday. And in the World Cup betting odds that are posted by the folks at BetAnySports, they are the favorites to do that:
Argentina vs. Netherlands Odds by BetAnySports
|Argentina to advance||-170|
|Netherlands to advance||+140|
Argentina got off to a rocky start in this competition. They lost to Saudi Arabia, and had to come back with wins over Mexico and Poland to move to the next round.
Netherlands is looking for some vindication… and they’ve got a plan
To get to the semifinals, Argentina will have a rough-and-ready side from the Netherlands on its hands. The Dutch rolled by the United States (3-1) to continue its mission. A non-qualifier in 2018, they are seeking their first World Cup title ever. They have been described as the best country to have failed to win that honor.
There’s a little payback on their minds as well. Argentina beat the Oranje in the semifinals of the 2014 Cup. Louis van Gaal was the national team’s manager at the time. After a stint with Manchester United and a hiatus, he is now in his third tenure at the helm.
This time around, the Dutch have gone through 18 matches without a loss. And van Gaal has some ideas about how to deal with Messi.
“When they lose the ball he doesn’t participate much,” said van Gaal. “That gives us chances.”
Virgil van Dijk, the centre back who has twice been named to the World XI, acknowledges that when his team is on the attack, Messi is “chilling somewhere in a corner or something.”
In other words, Messi isn’t much help on the defensive end of the field.
Here is the three-way line and total for regulation time only:
World Cup Odds by BetAnySports
-½ ( +120 )
2 ( -125 )
+½ ( -140 )
2 ( +105 )
Plenty of scoring punch with the Dutch
The Netherlands isn’t a team that is constantly on the attack, but when they pick their spots, they’re all in. They come to the table with a lot of talent. Cody Gekpo is an explosive scorer who tallied a goal in each match in group play. Van Dijk is the captain at Liverpool in the English Premier League. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, another former World XI member, plays for Barcelona. And one of his teammates there, Memphis Depay, could be the most dangerous threat on the roster.
Depay scored a goal against Australia, and he now has 43 goals in 85 international appearances. Denzel Dumfries of Inter Milan, who once played for the Aruban national team, assisted on the first two goals and scored the third one.
So no one should go to sleep on the world’s eighth-ranked squad.
DiMaria’s fitness could be a question
Argentina’s manager, Lionel Scaloni, may have a personnel dilemma on his hands. Angel Di Maria was removed in the second half of the game against Australia with soreness in his quadriceps. With some time to rest, he should play, although his fitness will come into question.
It proved to be wise for Scaloni to insert Julian Alvarez into the lineup after having sat out the first two games. The Manchester City striker has scored in each of the last two contests.
Argentina, a possession-oriented squad, will operate very deliberately and then try to explode with Messi. So this will be a game played close to the vest. They can advance here, but that price doesn’t look like a big bargain.
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