Argentina v Iran – Leo To Make A Mess Of IranStats
Argentina v Iran
Argentina are expected to coast to victory in their second group game against rank outsiders Iran on Saturday in Belo Horizonte but will it be that straightforward?
It wasn’t always convincing from Argentina in their opening game against Bosnia at the Maracena last weekend, particularly in the first half, but they grew into the game in the second half and were worthy of their 2-1 victory. An early own goal from Saed Kolasinac had given the Argentines the perfect start within three minutes when he was unlucky to turn Lionel Messi’s whipped free-kick from the left touchline past Asmir Begovic. They failed to take advantage of that timely break as they stuttered through the remainder of the first half and were barely deserving of a lead at the break. A double change at half-time resulted in a transformed team after the break though as Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago gave the side a far more balanced look and allowed Messi to flourish. The Barcelona superstar then showed why many expect him to light up the tournament with a beautiful goal in the 65th minute to settle Argentina’s nerves before Vedad Ibisevic scored the first goal Argentina have conceded in six games late on but it wasn’t to be for Bosnia.
Few should have been overly surprised by Iran’s goalless draw with Nigeria in their opening group game – it’s their third scoreless draw in their last five games – in what was easily the least exciting match played at a generally thrilling World Cup to date. The Iranians won’t care a jot, however, if it proves to be a springboard for a hugely unexpected qualification for the knockout stages of the tournament as their opponents dominated possession and shots on goal but couldn’t break down a well organised defence. Iran also made some decent chances of their own, particularly from set-pieces and are capable of causing any side problems from dead ball situations.
Forward Rodrigo Palacio is expected to miss out for Argentina with a foot problem but there are no other injury worries for Alejandro Sabella to deal with. The Argentinian coach seems likely to abandon the five man defence that began against Bosnia though, with Gago and Higuain to figure from the outset at the expense of Maxi Rodriguez and Hugo Campagnaro.
Iran boss Carlos Queiroz looks set to stick with the same starting XI which frustrated Nigeria in their first group game as he has no fresh injury concerns.
These sides have met only once in their history, when they played out a 1-1 draw over 35 years ago, in March 1977.
Argentina are huge favourites at 1/8 to win their second game of the group and put themselves in a very strong position to top the group but at such short odds it’s best to look elsewhere for value.
With Messi up and running and less pressure on the little magician I can see him running riot
, especially if they can an early goal and force Iran to come at them. 1/3 odds to score anytime might be restrictive while the 7/4 to score first in a side brimming with attacking intent seems precarious so take the four-time World Player of the Year to score two or more at 6/4 instead.