Argentina are one win away from advancing to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, and they are favored to do so against Belgium.
Both advanced to the quarterfinals after late goals rescued them from mediocre performances. Argentina needed extra time for a 1-0 win over Switzerland, while Belgium surged for two goals in extra time to beat the Americans 2-1.
Look for Belgium to employ a strategy similar to what the Swiss used in nearly pulling off the upset, packing the defensive back line and looking for the counter-attack.
While Lionel Messi is the main weapon in the Argentina arsenal, Belgium have used six different gunners to score the squad’s six goals.
Messi has produced much of Argentina’s offense, and he created the winner against Switzerland with a superb pass.
Romelu Lukaku is the main striker for Belgium, but he had been struggling before coming off the bench to score in the USA match. Belgium have a varied and creative attack, led by Eden Hazard, that plays with pace, but the counter-attack may be their best chance to score.
The Argentina defense played well against Switzerland, but they have conceded too many scoring chances through group play and against the Swiss. Does the combination of stellar offense and shaky defense increase the odds of an over for World Cup totals bettors (where the line was 2.5 goals)?
The answer to that question depends on the answer to this one: Can Belgium keep Messi under wraps? If Argentina resort to individual efforts and rely too heavily on Messi, the advantage may swing to Belgium, who have played a better team game.
Belgium’s midfield is not as strong as Argentina’s, but they must play well in that area of the pitch and keep the South Americans from dominating time of possession. They have creative, young forwards and attacking midfielders who have been fearless so far as the Belgians have won all four matches.
Argentina vs. Belgium prediction: 3-2 Argentina
Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark and World Cup Odds.