The default setting of an England football fan is one of frustration and disappointment.
You look wistfully at a team made up of talented players who perform at the highest level for their clubs in the greatest domestic league in the world – while more often than not also excelling in European competition – but when it comes to representing their country they fall bitterly short of your expectations.
Now imagine you are from Argentina and multiply that feeling of helpless dissatisfaction by a thousand.
The Albiceleste have, unequivocably, the best strike force on the planet at their disposal with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel di Maria, not to mention the preposterously talented Javier Pastore in midfield and the familiarly combative presence of Javier Mascherano.
They really should be a force to be reckoned with. And yet in their last competitive match they were beaten 1-0 by an exciting, yet raw Venezuela side – their first ever defeat to them – which has left many Argentines wondering if this most talented of teams will ever fulfil their true potential. Sound familiar?
The visit of Bolivia tonight will bring to mind the ludicrous result from the previous World Cup qualifying campaign when in 2009, Bolivia, in the stultifying altitude of La Paz, inflicted a humiliating 6-1 defeat on Argentina.
More recently, however, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in this year’s Copa America, with another draw this evening available at an enticing 7/1. The visitors are priced at 22/1 to win while a home victory is on offer at 11/100.
It was once said that qualifying for the World Cup from South America is harder than actually lifting the trophy itself. The preponderance of talented teams, coupled with the sheer length of the qualifying process, means that it becomes a long old slog.
Tonight’s game against Bolivia is one Argentina should win comfortably, but nothing will be taken for granted. Expect the Bolivians to be extremely fit and to try and press Argentina high up the pitch when not in possession.
The hosts should wear them down given the sheer quality in their side, but it might take some time and therefore the 16/5 offered for the draw at half time and an Argentina win at full time looks extremely tempting.
Similarly, a double on Argentina winning and less than 2.5 goals being scored in the match is available at 5/2 at looks like it could offer serious value.
The aforementioned abundance of exceptional Argentine strikers makes venturing into the goalscorers market a little tricky.
The usual suspects are all there, with Messi priced at 2/1 to open the scoring. Instead, though, consider Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, who, with 15 goals for club and country this season, is displaying the form that makes him arguably one of the most efficient and clinical strikers in world football. When the man they call Pipita gets a chance he usually takes it and you should back him at 3/1 to score first.
There are, of course, two teams playing tonight and the pick of the Bolivians could well be Edivaldo Hermoza. The Brazilian-born striker got his first international goal in the draw between the two sides in the Copa America in July and is priced at an attractive 13/4 to score at any time in the game.
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