Kick-off: 1900, 03/12/2022
Stadium: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
Argentina showed great composure to top their World Cup group after an opening loss to Saudi Arabia and the reward is facing rank outsiders Australia.
The Socceroos, who upset Tunisia and Denmark to qualify behind France, are expected to prove game, but outgunned in Al Rayyan.
We like 21/20 for La Albiceleste to win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 as our first Argentina vs Australia prediction.
Being stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia may prove a blessing in disguise for Argentina, as that result cleared out any complacency in their camp.
There were plenty of nerves on show during a goalless first half versus Mexico but Lionel Messi then inspired La Albiceleste to a 2-0 triumph.
Messi had a spot-kick saved against Poland on Wednesday but always looked in control of that contest and ultimately prevailed by the same scoreline.
Goals from Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez did the damage, while Messi was like a puppet master pulling all the strings.
Manager Lionel Scaloni said: “When you are defeated, you have to move on, you can’t keep thinking about that defeat.
“We had two more games to play and we have gone through now. We knew we had to win the remaining games.”
Looking ahead to Saturday night’s clash, he added: “Maybe we didn’t play that well against Saudi Arabia but we had the chances to win.
“We ended up losing, so all matches are tough and if you think that the match against Australia is going to be easy, you are wrong.”
Argentina’s stats against Poland were impressive, enjoying 73 per cent of the possession and having 12 shots on target, with none allowed at the other end.
Alvarez was always there or thereabouts when chances became available in the box and should really be ahead of Lautaro Martinez in the pecking order up front.
Looking at the 7/2 to score first if starting.
Australia are better known for their exploits in rugby and cricket but the Socceroos have won over plenty of new admirers during this tournament.
They had the cheek to score first versus France through Craig Goodwin before eventually going down 4-1 and did not let that defeat dent their confidence.
Mitchell Duke headed in the only goal of the game against Tunisia and Mathew Leckie was the match-winner with a superb breakaway strike in another 1-0 triumph over Denmark.
Head coach Graham Arnold beamed: “I’m just so proud and happy, this is what World Cups are for.
“When the Cricket World Cup is on, you don’t see Federation Square (in Melbourne) like it is and pubs like they are, or if it’s rugby union, rugby league or anything.
“The World Cup of football unites a nation and I’m just proud that we’ve been able to put smiles on people’s faces.
“It’s the first time ever that an Australian team has won two games at a World Cup in a row.”
Australia have a solid keeper in former Brighton shot-stopper Matthew Ryan and a spirited defence willing to put their bodies on the line to block balls.
However, it has to be said that Denmark were awful up front in that crucial group match and Argentina will surely provide a much sterner test here.
Let’s add 27/10 for a two-goal winning margin.
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