World Cup Betting Guide: Tuesday 12/13/22
After a memorable three weeks of soccer on the Arabian Peninsula, we’ve finally reached the business end of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
But even with 61 matches in the books -- and just three to go to crown a champion -- there’s still no clear picture of how the final week of competition might play out, especially after a quarterfinal round that saw two of the four underdogs come out on top.
Could Croatia continue that upset trend Tuesday to earn their second straight trip to the final? Or will Argentina move one step closer to their first world title since 1986?
Read on for more details on the tournament’s first semifinal, and be sure to check out FanDuel Sportsbook for the latest World Cup odds and more.
Argentina (-270 to advance) vs. Croatia (+205)
Lusail Stadium | Al Daayen, Qatar | 1pm ET
For teams who make it this far in any major tournament, a sense of destiny -- that this is truly their time -- begins to take hold.
That narrative is certainly present for the two sides in action on Tuesday.
One was tipped by many to reach this stage and beyond well before a ball was kicked in Qatar, while most believed the other’s chance of glory had passed them by after a surprise run four years ago.
But just like in 2018, Croatia have proven once more that they have what it takes in the World Cup crucible, especially when the hour gets late.
Five of their six knockout matches over the last two World Cups have gone to extra time or penalties, and they’ve found a way to advance on each occasion.
After coming from behind in normal time to defeat Japan on PKs in the Round of 16, Zlatko Dalic’s side left it even later in the quarterfinals, erasing a 105th-minute Neymar goal with a 117th-minute equalizer from Bruno Petkovic before crushing the Selecao’s dreams in the shootout.
But while Brazil outshot Croatia 11-1 over the 120-minute affair, this wasn’t a miracle smash-and-grab-and-advance for this group from the Aegean against the heavily favored Samba Kings. Possession was split 50-50, and while Brazil’s expected goals (xG) tally was 1.9 higher than Croatia’s, Luka Modric and company still looked dangerous when they came forward, even if they only spent 22% of the match in the opposition third.
The ability to defend/play for a draw while offering a threat on the counter has been a hallmark of the Vatreni over the last four years, and they’ll employ that same gameplan Tuesday when they come up against their second South American giant in a row.
Speaking of which, Argentina also needed to survive a quarterfinal penalty shootout just days ago after being pushed to the brink against the Netherlands despite carrying a 2-0 lead into the 81st minute.
A pair of late Wout Weghorst goals on the only two Dutch shots on target in the entire match certainly made things interesting, but Emi Martinez’s quick reflexes and a series of nerveless kicks from the spot kept the Argentine dream alive for at least one more round.
Statistically, Lionel Scaloni’s side has been one of the top defensive teams in the tournament. They’ve allowed the fewest shots per game (4.4) and have kept the ball away from their opposition (61.7%) better than all but Spain and England.
But despite that perceived dominance, they’ve also been pried open at times, allowing a goal per match despite conceding next to no chances on a game-to-game basis.
Argentina’s opposition has been incredibly efficient up to this point, and Croatia is no different, scoring six times on the 20 shots on goal they’ve mustered in Qatar, a 30% success rate.
Meanwhile, the Albiceleste have been a much more high-volume team on the offensive end, scoring twice in each of their last four matches while posting an average xG of 1.9 for this World Cup and averaging the third-most shots on target of the field (6.4).
And while Croatia’s defense boasts two of world soccer’s emerging stars in keeper Dominik Livakovic and center-back Josko Gvardiol, they’ve kept clean sheets in only one-third of the 14 matches they’ve played this calendar year.
Still, this Croatian side held out for 90 minutes against the game’s best attack one round ago -- plus don’t forget they hammered a very different Argentina team 3-0 in the World Cup group stage in 2018 -- so anything’s possible.
Both teams have come one win shy of the ultimate goal in recent editions of this tournament. Both are nearly there again, but only one will get the chance at redemption on the biggest stage.
We’re about to find out which will be destiny’s choice this time around.
Going Deeper: numberFire’s projections give Argentina a 56% to advance to their second final in the last three World Cups and their sixth final overall. If Croatia can prove that wrong, they’d be the first team since Brazil (1994, 1998 and 2002) to reach consecutive finals.
Call To Action: Of Croatia’s five matches at this World Cup, their 4-1 victory over Canada on Matchday 2 is their only true win, as they drew 0-0 with Morocco and Belgium in the group stage, and their two knockout-round penalty shootouts count as draws for the record books. In short, don’t be surprised if another draw after 120 minutes is on the cards, and given the nature of both teams, a draw (+410) appears to be a strong option.
If you think Argentina can win in regular time, don’t hesitate to grab them to also post the most shots on target and most corners (+230) in one of FanDuel’s World Cup Specials. There’s a good chance this match goes the distance, though -- they all seem to when Croatia’s involved -- so also consider either team on penalties (+440) or be brave and choose one (Argentina +900, Croatia +1000) to move on after PKs.