The first game of the Group D between Argentina and Iceland will take place at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow on June 16th. Argentina is the fifth favorite to lift the trophy this year as Brazil, Germany, Spain, and France have a slightly better chance, according to the bookies, so it’s crucial to open the tournament with three points here. On the other hand, Iceland is without pressure, whatsoever, and the mighty Vikings could be in the line to make a surprise or two as it was the case in the last EURO in France.
Argentina vs. Iceland
Three-Way: 1: Argentina -357; X: +375 Draw; 2: Iceland +1200 at BetDSI Sportsbook
Spread -1.5: Argentina +106; Iceland -139
Total 2.5 goals: Over +114; Under -152
The Albiceleste will play for the 17th time at the World Cup and for the 12th time in a row, and after failing to advance to the top four teams in five straight tournaments, Argentina made it to the finals four years ago in Brazil, but Mario Gotze’s goal in the extra time prevented them from lifting the third trophy. This might be the last opportunity for Leo Messi to win the World Cup and the fans are desperate for the first win since 1986 in Mexico.
Jorge Sampaoli has a fantastic attack as he selected Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, and Paulo Dybala alongside the captain Messi as there wasn’t a place for Inter Milan’s striker Mauro Icardi, so you get the picture how good the attack is. The coach’s biggest problem is a goalkeeper position as he decided not to call Sergio Romero or Gerónimo Rulli as he gave the chance to the veteran Willy Caballero, who will likely start between the sticks.
The defense is also rather mediocre with Nicolás Otamendi and Marcos Rojo at centre-backs, but the rest of the defense is far from being impressive, so Argentina could have plenty of issues when defending. Javier Mascherano needs just one more game to become the nation’s all-time cap leader as he has 143 appearances at the moment, the same number as the legendary Javier Zanetti. Ángel Di María, Éver Banega, and Mascherano will run the midfield, but their replacements Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini, and Eduardo Salvio scored only two goals in total for the national side.
Argentina’s defensive woes were evident in the friendly games with Nigeria and Spain, conceding ten goals in the process, and although they beat Italy 2-0 and Haiti 4-0 in the latest match, the team is far from being invulnerable. Still, inexperienced Iceland should represent a danger in the opener and three points are widely expected.
The Our Boys are the debutants at the World Cup and after being a pleasant surprise in the previous EURO when they made it to the quarter-finals, their fans are hoping for another upset this time around in Russia.
Heimir Hallgrímsson called most of the players who represented Iceland in France two years ago, but he is probably the happiest with the return of the best player Gylfi Sigurðsson who managed to come back from an injury he suffered in early March. Everton’s midfielder scored against Norway in the most recent duel with Norway as he was introduced off the bench and is looking ready to lead his nation again in this tournament.
The midfield is the strongest part of the squad as Iceland has Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Emil Hallfreðsson, and the captain Aron Gunnarsson alongside Sigurðsson. Although they don’t have a prolific striker aside from Alfreð Finnbogason, Iceland can be quite dangerous from set-pieces, so I suppose they will try to score against Argentina in these situations. Hallgrímsson decided not to bring Elmar Bjarnason, Arnór Smárason, and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson to Russia, but he can work with the invited individuals, so I don’t think he will miss the trio.
Iceland has a lot of defensive issues lately as they allowed three goals in each of the previous three friendlies, losing all of them, as they scored four goals in return. The last 3-2 defeat to Norway was a bit disappointing, so the Our Boys will probably seek their opportunity to get points against Croatia and Nigeria rather than on this clash.
These sides never met before and the Argentineans are the huge favorites to win here, so it would be surprising to see them failing to get three points in the first game. Iceland can be more relaxed in this tilt, which can be a problem for favored Argentina, but I don’t think Messi and co. will struggle to score at least two or three goals against a rather leaky Iceland’s defense. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be a shock if the underdogs score one.
The Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+114)