Argentina vs Saudi Arabia predictions: South Americans to make strong start
World Cup second favourites Argentina face the 750-1 outsiders and with the result of this opening Group C encounter looking a foregone conclusion, the only real question is whether Saudi Arabia can keep things respectable.
Argentina arrive as the reigning South American champions, having beaten tournament hosts Brazil in the final of the 2021 Copa America last July.
That Copa success has lifted a weight off the shoulders of a nation and off of Lionel Messi in particular — the Argentine talisman has somehow found an even higher level since silencing questions of whether he would ever lead his country to glory.
The quality within the Argentina squad has never been in question but now it is supplemented by tournament-winning confidence that has seen the South Americans go unbeaten for over three years.
By contrast, Saudi Arabia’s last defeat came only a week ago, when the Green Falcons lost their final warm-up match against Croatia and their next defeat seems set to arrive imminently.
Giovani Lo Celso failed to make the Argentina squad due to a hamstring problem and forwards Joaquin Correa and Nicolas Gonzalez have since had to withdraw through injury, with Thiago Almada and Angel Correa replacing the pair.
Defender Cristian Romero missed last week’s warm-up match against UAE and is a major doubt while there are also slight concerns over the fitness of Messi.
Messi joins a host of players to have missed training in recent days, with Lisandro Martinez, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Juan Foyth, Nicolas Otamendi and Angel Di Maria all absent from first-team training.
However, it is likely most are simply being rested as a precaution.
Saudi Arabia could be without midfielder Riyadh Sharahili and defender Hassan Tambakti, who have both missed training through injury.
Argentina are unbeaten in their last 36 matches, winning 25 and their last defeat came against Brazil in the semi-final of the 2019 Copa America.
La Albiceleste have won each of their last five matches either 3-0 or 5-0 — including a 3-0 victory over Italy in the 2022 Finalissima and last week’s 5-0 thrashing of UAE, who beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their most recent meeting.
The Saudis were comfortable qualifiers from Asia’s AFC third round thanks to a spotless home record but their wobbly away record saw them only pip Japan to top spot on the final day.
They drew 1-1 in China, 0-0 in Australia and lost 2-0 in Japan.
Their only victories away from home came in a pair of 1-0 defeats of minnows Vietnam and Oman.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia have failed to score more than a single goal in any of their last 19 outings and have won only two of their last ten matches, failing to score in six.
Saudi Arabia suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat to hosts Russia in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup and the limit of their ambitions against in-form Argentina will surely be to avoid another embarrassment.
Four years ago, they followed up that 5-0 rout with a respectable 1-0 loss to Uruguay, but it is highly unlikely the Green Falcons will restrict Lionel Scaloni’s impressive side to a single goal.
The doubts over the fitness of Messi and several other key Argentine players might temper enthusiasm for a rout, but it is likely that most of those players will return and the second-string are all better than their Saudi counterparts.
Angel Di Maria is one of those who sometimes does not get the attention he deserves but is a regular goalscorer who will be a value addition to a BetBuilder selection if passed fit, but the best bet is to go for over 2.5 Argentina goals — available at Evens with LiveScore Bet.
The price is considerably more generous than the 5/8 for over 2.5 match goals — and with the Saudis highly unlikely to contribute to the scoring, it is effectively a significant price boost to simply back Argentina goals rather than total goals.
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