Argentina v Croatia: Underdogs eye another South American scalp
Argentina v Croatia betting odds, tips and predictions
Croatia have knocked out one of the South American heavyweights and will reach a second successive World Cup final if they can do the same against Argentina.
Their penalty shoot-out victory over Brazil sent the tournament favourites home but Croatia will have to defy the underdogs tag once again as they face last year’s Copa America champions.
Tuesday’s match at Lusail Iconic Stadium kicks off at 7pm and is live on ITV.
Shoot-out success sets up semi showdown
Both teams held their nerve to progress on penalties after a day of quarter-final drama on Friday.
Croatia held Brazil to a goalless draw over 90 minutes but looked to be heading out when they fell behind to Neymar’s goal in the first half of extra-time, only for Bruno Petkovic to level with four minutes left as the game ended 1-1.
Marquinhos hit the post and Dominik Livakovic saved Rodrygo’s spot-kick in the shoot-out as Croatia won 4-2 – with star man Neymar left in despair as the unused fifth penalty taker.
Lionel Messi avoided the same fate as Neymar – but only after a dramatic comeback from the Netherlands.
Argentina looked to be cruising through to the last four when Messi confidently converted a penalty in the 73rd minute having created the opening goal in the first half with a sublime through ball for Nahuel Molina.
But Wout Weghorst pulled one back within five minutes and then tucked away a brave and clever short free-kick deep into injury time to make it 2-2.
Extra-time brought more chances for Argentina but no goals and it was goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who proved the hero with two saves in the shoot-out.
Croatia can pull off Russian repeat
Croatia were surprise finalists four years ago and are defying the World Cup betting again as they dream of at least matching their run in Russia and possibly winning the ultimate prize.
Having only qualified from their group as runners-up, Croatia also needed penalties to scrape past Japan but do not know when they are beaten, as proven by their late equaliser against Brazil.
Coach Zlatko Dalic said: “Brazil were very smart and had control in the match but we demonstrated what it is like not to surrender and what the Croatia team is.
“We are in the semi-final, we are a small country. I congratulated every one of my players and they are great fighters. Only Croats can do that.
“We will prepare, now we are in the semi-finals we will not surrender. We have very strong characters and we do not give up.”
What a moment for Croatia!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 9, 2022
Croatia were 3-0 winners when the teams met in the group stage four years ago so have proved they have the beating of the South Americans.
While many of the players on show are different, Messi and Luka Modric remain the main men for their respective teams.
Modric was central to Croatia’s best play against Brazil and the midfield trio which also contains Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic can dominate again.
That will limit the service to Messi and while he can produce moments of magic, just as he did for Argentina’s opener against the Netherlands, this looks set to be a closer game than the odds suggest.
Discipline worry for Argentina
Argentina are under pressure to go all the way in what is almost certainly Messi’s last chance to win the only major prize that has eluded him.
That pressure spilled over into ill-discipline during the Netherlands game when several needless fouls played into the hands of their opponents, most notably in injury time when they scored from a free-kick.
Eight yellow cards for Argentina suggested they had lost their heads and that this has the potential to be a similar kind of game.
One player who will be heavily involved for Croatia is Brozovic, who made more passes in the Brazil game than any other player on the pitch.
He also made three tackles and was shown a yellow card to add to the five he has received for Inter Milan this season despite more than a month out with injury.
Coral have several #YourCall markets in which he features and 17/4 for him to win at least three tackles and be shown a card is added to our Argentina v Croatia predictions.
For even bigger World Cup odds, 11/1 is available for Brozovic and Argentina’s Cristian Romero to be shown a card with Croatia avoiding defeat after 90 minutes.
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All odds and markets are correct as of the date of publication