There’s an awful lot of pressure on Lionel Messi to light up Argentina’s last-16 battle with Switzerland, but four goals in three games so far strongly suggests that it will be three times the charm for the Barcelona phenomenon at the World Cup.
For punters out there whose bellies stir with the strongest feeling that this will be Messi’s day – and, ultimately, tournament – we’ve compiled the bets to back on Brazil’s east coast.
Messi to score the first goal @ 5/2 (with double/treble money potential)
The fact that much more is still expected from a player who has scored in each of his three 2014 World Cup appearances so far – twice in his country’s last fixture against Nigeria – speaks volumes of the impact the four-time Ballon d’Or winner has had during his ten-year professional career so far.
Messi’s opener against the Super Eagles was his second on the bounce, and bwin’s double/treble money first scorer offer – where you get multiple odds if your wager lands and the player goes on to score once or twice more – makes this a must-bet.
Argentina to score three or more goals – Was 21/10, now 23/10
Sergio Aguero will miss the Rossocrociati clash, but PSG’s Ezequiel Lavezzi is a more than ample replacement for the Manchester City striker.
Besides, full-back Marcos Rojo is the only Albiceleste player bar Messi to get on the scoresheet so far, and Argentina managed three last time out against Nigeria, when the Sporting Lisbon defender netted the 50th-minute winner.
Switzerland shipped five goals in their other World Cup match so far against a top-tier nation, and Argentina are much shorter than France at 19/4 in the outrights, despite not making it into the quarter finals yet.
Messi to win the Golden Boot @ 7/4
Two against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men would see the Barcelona winger leapfrog Colombia’s James Rodriguez at the top of the scorer rankings heading into the last eight.
With one of Rodriguez and Brazil’s four-goal one-man-show Neymar guaranteed to lose their World Cup 2014 status next time out, Messi would steal a march on his rivals with a hatful against Switzerland.
Messi to win the Golden Ball @ 9/4
With either Belgium or USA, neither of whom have looked world-beaters, up next if Argentina see off the Swiss, the Albiceleste faithful – who have never seen their country crash out in the semis – can start dreaming about the final.
Should they make it that far with Messi continuing the striking form he has shown in their enemies’ backyard, the 27-year-old would expect to cap his third World Cup by being named player of the tournament, although the possibility of a Brazil v Argentina showdown in Rio could yet throw a Neymar-shaped spanner in the works.