Bosnia Herzegovina: +820
Another solid winner last night on Italy, who were, as expected, too streetwise and experienced for England. It now sets the Italians up to top the group, while the Uruguayans shock defeat to Costa Rica leaves the battle for second place in the group wide open.
Argentina come into tonight’s game having lost just one of their previous 19 games – and that was a 3-2 defeat to Uruguay where the manager played an experimental team. The run also includes a 2-0 victory over Bosnia, as the teams played a friendly last year. Both teams were at full strength, with the exception of Lionel Messi – but the game was much closer than the scoreline suggests as Bosnia had Argentina under pressure for long periods with their keeper Romero at his best to deny Edin Dzecko and Ibisevic.
If you just looked at Argentina’s results you would probably think they have a pretty solid defence as they’ve now kept five clean sheets in a row. I’m far from convinced though and it would seem that the manager isn’t either as he’s been experimenting with three at the back. During qualifying they conceded 15 goals in 16 matches – which was more than Colombia and only one less than Ecuador. It is also worth noting that aside from the fortunate clean sheet they achieved against Bosnia, when they’ve faced any team of merit during their friendly fixtures since 2012, they’ve conceded at least one goal.
Bosnia qualified for this tournament with a near perfect record. Eight wins, one draw and one defeat earned them top spot in their group and they racked up an impressive 30 goals in the process. It has to be said that the calibre of opposition they faced wasn’t exactly high, but they got the job done, and they got it done well.
I do have my concerns about the defence though as while they only conceded six in qualifying, they had it relatively easy, and main rivals Greece only conceded four. It’s not so much the defenders that are the problem, it’s the lack of a top quality defensive midfielder. Sejad Salihovic and Haris Medunjanin were the two players vying for that role, and while the manager would have been planning on playing them in a double-pivot for this match, the former suffered an injury in training and his status is up in the air at the moment.
The Match Odds market is a bit of an intriguing one as many will have Argentina down as a banker. I can’t argue that they shouldn’t be favourites, but -235 offers no value. Given that both teams know they have easier matches to come in the shape of Nigeria and Iran, a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world for either country.
A market that does grab my attention though is the Over/Under 2.5 one. Overs is the marginal favourite at -110 and that stands-out to me as a fantastic price. I have already touched on the defensive frailties of both teams and they are certainly better going forward than at the back. Gonzalo Higuain is a slight doubt with an ankle injury, but Argentina have a more than adequate replacement in the form of Ezequiel Lavezzi, the PSG front man, with Messi and Aguero also on the field. This market offers the best value on the game and I am confident of adding to our tournament profits.
+2.1 units (2-1)