Argentina and Lionel Messi begin their World Cup adventure against Iceland on Saturday afternoon – who are the smallest country to ever participate at the tournament. It continues what has been a remarkable rise for Icelandic football after their memorable win over England in the Euro’s two years ago.
However, they will be big outsiders for the test against Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina who boast the best player in the world in their ranks. With Croatia and Nigeria also in Group D it’s a tricky draw for Argentina and they will know the importance of getting off to a good start. Whilst Iceland cannot be underestimated after their heroics over the past few years, the reality is there should be a gulf in class on the day.
Here we will give you Argentina vs Iceland betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key players and an Argentina vs Iceland prediction for the crucial clash.
Our Argentina vs Iceland Prediction: Argentina 3-1 Iceland
Our Argentina vs Iceland prediction tips is for the South American side to run out comfortable winners and get off to a solid start.
Argentina have not convinced in the past 12 months, with qualifying a major issue and some recent friendly results very worrying. And, it would be fair to say that they are a one-man team with the nation far too reliant on Messi. However, he’s not a bad player to be too reliant on and Messi should make the difference against Iceland. They will of course have a plan to deal with him but the Barcelona man is given a complete free role in this side and will impact the game.
The movement from the forwards and the precise passing should unlock Iceland’s defence on numerous occasions and the quality may be too much for the minnows on the day. However, they will take confidence from the fact Argentina are very unconvincing defensively themselves and Iceland will also fancy their chances from set-pieces, including Aron Gunnarsson’s expert long-throw.
Our recommended tip – Argentina to win and Messi to score
Messi’s influence on this team was highlighted in Argentina’s qualifying campaign. The team picked up seven points from eight games without their talisman and despite playing just over half of the qualifiers he was joint-second top scorer on the continent in the qualifiers.
Therefore, it’s pretty safe to say if Argentina do score a few goals there’s a very high chance he will be on the scoresheet. With La Albiceleste odds-on to win there is little value in betting on the straight up win, however adding Messi to score boosts the price significantly.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given this is Iceland’s first World Cup, their clash in Moscow will be the first time these two nations have met.
As mentioned, Argentina made hard work of qualifying with a final-day win needed to secure their place in Russia, whereas Iceland navigated a tricky group very impressively. However, recent friendly results will have worried the Nordic country. They have failed to win their last four, suffering heavy defeats to Peru and Mexico, losing at home to Norway and drawing at home to Ghana, conceding 11 goals in the process. For Argentina, they have only played one friendly in the past month but a 6-1 defeat, without Messi, to Spain in March highlights the issues they have defensively.
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Players to watch – Lionel Messi & Gylfi Sigurdsson
We’ve already mentioned how important Messi is to this team but it really needs to be stressed. On paper, other players in the side should make Argentina formidable but they haven’t really performed over the years. Iceland are sure to sit deep, block spaces and make it very tough for the South Americans and it may become a long afternoon. The genius of Messi may be required if they are to beat the European side.
For Iceland, Sigurdsson is their match-winner. The Everton man has a superb right-foot and will be a major threat from set-pieces which could be the one way Iceland cause Argentina major problems. As well as that, they are likely to come under large spells of sustained pressure and it will be vital they keep the ball to ease that, where Sigurdsson will again be key. If they have any chance of pulling off a miracle, he will be the man to do it.