Qatar v Argentina – Arena do Grêmio at 20:00 GMT+1 live at Premier Sports
Argentina arrived at this summer’s Copa America as second favourites behind hosts Brazil. La Albiceleste were marked out as odds-on jollies to top their group with Lionel Messi leading the contenders in the Top Goalscorer betting. For seasoned South American football fans, such claims lacked solid evidence.
Under the stewardship of Jorge Sampaoli at last year’s World Cup, Argentina flopped. The former Chile boss was axed but due to his expensive, long-term contract, the federation were forced to look for cheaper alternatives, such as Sampaoli’s assistant and ex-West Ham defender Lionel Scaloni.
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Scaloni was appointed on a caretaker basis and still holds the position now. Having been handed the key in August 2018, the new boss was full of bold talk, saying, “I’ve always liked more direct, vertical football. Winning the ball to arrive at the opposing goal as quickly as possible.” His message was clear.
Fast forward to June 2019 and Argentina have just one point on the board at the Copa America following uninspiring encounters with Colombia and Paraguay. In a World Cup, such a return would be disastrous, although the Copa is a more lenient beast with just four nations exiting the competition at the group-stage.
In the history of the 12-team Copa, four points has always been enough to make it through, so a win against Qatar on Sunday should be enough for La Albiceleste to reach the knockout stage. However, few supporters have been impressed by the football served up this summer and Argentina still look vastly overrated.
Scaloni abandoned his previous approach against Paraguay on Wednesday night in favour of a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation. Even so, Argentina lacked organisation, defensive pace and invention in the middle of the park; once more, the side were trying to play for Messi, as opposed to with him.
The half-time introduction of Sergio Aguero aided their prospects with Rodrigo De Paul moving to the right of the midfield trio and Giovani Lo Celso the left. La Albiceleste had a better balance about their play – the extra space gave Messi more of an opportunity to make his mark but ultimately Scaloni’s side fell short.
Qatar can stay competitive
If Argentina are underachieving, Qatar are certainly making their mark. The Copa debutants Qatar gained plenty of plaudits for their efforts and application when picking up a much-deserved point against Paraguay, before giving Colombia plenty of head-scratching moments in a 1-0 reverse on Wednesday evening.
The Asian Cup champions were well-organised and despite being dominated in the possession-stakes, Felix Sanchez’s troops frustrating their more illustrious opponents until four minutes from time. Colombia’s most threatening moments came via set-pieces and the Arab nation can be pleased with their display.
Now Qatar clash against Argentina knowing victory for either side will all but secure a quarter-final berth. The two teams are tied on a point apiece but the underdogs look well worthy of support in the Asian Handicap market where Qatar can be backed with a +2 start at 2.00.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Qatar +2.00 at 1.700
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.