After a weekend of quarter-final drama, we are down to the semi-finals in the 2022 FIFA World Cup as Tuesday and Wednesday evening will see the line-up for Sunday’s final in Lusail take shape.
Who will make the showpiece finale this weekend but more importantly, what value do we have our eyes on?
Kicking us off, Argentina face Croatia in Lusail where both sides will of course be hoping to return to in five days’ time.
When the draw was made some months ago, this was initially projected to be the ultimate last four heavyweight, South American clash between Argentina versus Brazil. However, after Croatia made it back-to-back wins on penalties, Zlatko Dalic’s men put a spanner in the works to stun the Canarinha and send a nation into tears – also leaving many other hopes dashed of seeing a titanic tussle between two fierce rivals.
Croatia might have clawed and rather scratched their way through the tournament to this point, but Vatreni have built a durability that is hard to match. Standing before them though, them lie a country who believe it is their time to lift the famous trophy for the first time since Mexico ’86.
For La Albiceleste, not only is Lionel Messi two wins away from his crowning moment of destiny in winning the World Cup, but the man who is reportedly close to joining Inter Miami in the near future is just one behind Kylian Mbappe in the race for the Golden Boot.
Messi has scored in all but two games this tournament and will be hunting for goals to lead his country into the final. SkyBet’s double up boost from evens to 2/1 for Messi to score in 90 mins is quite the dangling carrot for punters. The alternative to look at would be for Messi to have 1+ SOT in each half at 9/4 with PaddyPower.
It is becoming something of a cliché to say ‘tight contest’ in Qatar but for the Croatians, we really cannot rule the chances of a third game on the bounce to be decided from 12 yards. Indeed, if it did get that far, it might be hard to back against them. Therefore, backing Croatia at 10/1 with Bet365 to reach the final via penalties should not be sniffed at.
For those looking at a handicap bet, Croatia can be had at +0.5 at 5/4 with Sporting Index, meaning a draw at full time will be a winning flutter.
We shouldn’t rule out a goal in normal time either for the Croats but we might look at the individual shots on target market in particular. The two players we are singling out are the foraging Borna Sosa at left-back and the impressing Josko Gvardiol at centre-back. Whilst the latter will be a threat from set-pieces, Sosa has the trickery to get in behind or to cut in on goal. Both players are 10/3 and 13/2 for just 1+ SOT respectively, with SkyBet.
Finally, if we look at the cards markets, on paper, this does not look like it might be an ill-tempered game but as we saw in the quarter-finals, the Argentines have still a nasty streak within them. The much-criticised Antonio Mateu Lahoz took charge of the Netherlands game and dished out no less than 14 yellows together with just the second red of the competition and here, the equally card-happy Daniele Orsato will take his turn in the middle for a third time in Qatar.
His previous two outings have seen at least five cards and with the stakes high in Lusail, punting on over 4.5 cards at evens with Betfair will have every chance of doubling your dosh.