World Cup Betting Guide: Friday 12/9/22

Argentina and Brazil are on course for an epic World Cup semifinal showdown. But is there a chance Croatia or the Netherlands play spoiler on Friday?

Now? It gets interesting.

Thanks to a Round of 16 that saw a majority of the favorites advance without fuss, we’re set to be treated to a FIFA Men’s World Cup quarterfinal lineup stacked with heavy hitters and -- more pertinently to this space -- difficult matchups to predict.

The fun starts Friday with two South American titans battling a pair of recent World Cup runners-up from Europe. Read on for the details on how these contests might play out. Also, be sure to check out FanDuel Sportsbook for the latest World Cup odds and more.

Croatia (+510 to advance) vs. Brazil (-750)

Education City Stadium | Doha, Qatar | 10am ET

Contrary to what you just read in the intro about parity at this stage, the first of our four quarterfinals in Qatar offers a substantial discrepancy between favorite and underdog.

If you watched the Round of 16, you know why.

Beyond the fact that Brazil are five-time champions and the oddsmakers' choice to be the last team standing (+175) at this tournament, the Selecao put on an attacking display to remember against South Korea on Monday, scoring four times in the first half before taking their dancing feet off the gas in an eventual 4-1 victory.

Even if the Koreans’ naïveté in their setup played a role in the South Americans’ rampant offensive display, it was still a reminder of what this Brazil side is capable of on their day.

Meanwhile, Croatia never looked likely to get by Japan in their first knockout stage tie, but in a call-back to their run to the final in Russia four years ago, the Vatreni got the game-tying goal they needed in the second half before winning on penalties.

Their 4-1 group stage win over Canada aside, Zlatko Dalić’s charges are rarely stylish, but with just one defeat this calendar year, they continue to get the job done against all comers.

But while Croatia’s 1-0 victory over a full-strength French side earlier this year in the UEFA Nations League should give pause to any who believe this match will be a formality, the timing of it doesn’t help the upset cause of this nation on the Adriatic Sea.

Days after grinding out an advancement-sealing draw over Belgium on Matchday 3, Croatia had to then toil physically and mentally for a full two hours of gametime in their first knockout-round victory.

Luke Modric -- who is 37 years old and the beating heart of this Croatian side -- couldn’t last the full 120 minutes in that contest against Japan, and with just three days of rest between that one and Friday's bout, one wonders how much he and his teammates will have in reserve to face an up-tempo attack.

Brazil, meanwhile, played a second-choice XI in their final group game and had to truly exert themselves for only 45 minutes in the Round of 16, meaning their starters will be as close to 100% as it gets in this condensed winter World Cup.

Beyond the fatigue advantage, though, this Brazil team is on a different level because of their acumen at both ends of the pitch.

While the offense has been strong as expected -- Brazil rank second in total shots (18.8 per match) and shots on target (7.5) and fourth in pass completion (87.9%) --- they’ve been excellent at the back as well, with an impressive average expected goals (xG) allowed of 0.37.

Tite’s bunch has allowed the third-fewest shots per game (6.5) while spending only 23% of gametime in their own third, and when opponents have gotten chances, Liverpool star Alisson has been outstanding at repelling them.

In short, even though Croatia should offer more resistance than most to the Samba Kings, it’s hard to see any result but a Brazil victory at day’s end. Expect the knockout trend of the highly favored to advance to continue in Friday's opening quarterfinal.

Going Deeper: numberFire’s projections have Brazil’s win probability at 72%. If Brazil win, it would be the 12th time the Selecao have advanced to the semifinals of the World Cup, tying them with Germany for the most trips to the last four of any nation.

Call To Action: At -750 to advance, there’s no advantage to taking Brazil straight up, so you’ll have to get creative to find value, and that means hitting a correct score prediction. Bear in mind that Brazil haven’t played European opposition hardly at all since the last World Cup -- and they’ve never really found their offensive stride in those meetings -- so it would be a surprise if this is a rout. There’s a chance Croatia could frustrate the South Americans -- as Switzerland did in a narrow 1-0 defeat on Matchday 2 -- so a similar single-score game (+550) is possible.

For those who love an upset, there’s this: Brazil famously have been knocked out of the last four World Cups by the first European side they’ve faced in the knockout stages. If it’s to happen a fifth time in a row, it’ll almost surely come via penalties (+2000) after a 0-0 (+1300) or 1-1 (+850) result.

Netherlands (+130 to advance) vs. Argentina (-160)

Lusail Stadium | Al Daayen, Qatar | 2pm ET

Oranje v. Albiceleste.

Little else needs to be said.

These two have met at the World Cup five times, most recently in the 2014 semis in Sao Paolo, and most famously in the 1978 final in Buenos Aires.

Both of those matches required extra time, and both ended in Argentinian celebrations.

Many assume Friday’s quarterfinal will end in the same manner, with Lionel Messi and company continuing their inexorable march towards a semifinal date with archrival Brazil. But while the South Americans are favored -- and for good reason – this Dutch side is no pushover.

Long considered the greatest national team not to win a World Cup, the Netherlands have been denied at the final hurdle on three occasions -- 1974, 1978, and 2010.

And while this edition of the Oranje isn’t as star-studded as those teams were, they’ve quietly gone 21 games without defeat and appear to be hitting their stride after a 3-1 dismantling of the United States in the last round.

By the numbers, the Dutch haven’t been a dominant team at this World Cup -- they’re actually bang average in almost every statistical category, a big reason why many liked the Yanks’ chances against them in the Round of 16 -- but what the Netherlands lack in style points, they make up for in big-game experience.

Case in point: Louis Van Gaal’s team is 9-0-3 this calendar year, and all of those matches were against teams who made it to Qatar.

With that said, none of the nations on the Dutch’s 2022 schedule are still in this tournament, and none are nearly as dangerous as Argentina are.

After a stumble to Saudi Arabia on Matchday 1 that ended a 36-match unbeaten streak, Argentina have steadied the ship with controlled, composed performances in a series of must-win matches.

Lionel Scaloni’s men have been good going forward, scoring twice in each of their last three matches while averaging the third-most shots on target (6.3), fourth-most shot attempts (14.3), and second-highest possession (65.3%).

All of that time on the ball has left opponents with minimal opportunity for looks on goal, and that’s reflected in their defensive numbers -- 0.32 xG allowed per match as well as a tournament-low four shot attempts surrendered per match.

Even when factoring in the step-up in caliber of opponent for Argentina, this match should play out much like both team’s Round-of-16 ties, with Argentina controlling the ball against the Dutch -- just like the US did -- and the Netherlands looking to capitalize on their chances in transition -- just like Australia did.

If Friday sees Holland hold together at the back and counter swiftly -- as they did against the Americans -- a reversal of history against their rivals from across the Atlantic could be on the cards.

Still, just as they did eight years ago, the most likely outcome sees Messi's men finding the magic they need to unlock the Dutch defense -- in either normal time or beyond -- to once again continue an la Albiceleste’s run at the Netherlands’ expense.

Going Deeper: Giving the Netherlands a win probability of 43%, numberFire’s projections lean toward the Dutch in this contest in spite of what oddsmakers say. This marks the first time in the knockouts that neither side has a win probability of more than 50%, though it won’t be the last. (For proof, look no further than Saturday’s England v. France quarterfinal.)

Call To Action: Given the defensive nature of both teams -- the Argentines have kept 15 clean sheets in their last 20, while the Dutch have conceded just twice in their last six -- it would be a surprise if this quarterfinal is anything but a tight, low-scoring affair. Add in the history of this matchup, and betting on a 0-0 (+650) or 1-1 (+500) scoreline after 90 minutes isn’t a bad play, though perhaps taking either team in extra time (+500) or on penalties (+410) is the safer route.