Argentina v Paraguay | Thursday 20th June 2019, 01:30 | Premier Sports
Following an opening game defeat to Colombia, prices of Argentina winning the whole competition have started to drift. It was a very disappointing performance from the well-fancied nation, with Lionel Messi having an especially quiet night in front of goal. As we all know, much emphasis is placed upon him delivering the goods, but the team as a whole underperformed on the night.
Colombia however deserve big credit for their all-round team display, with Carlos Queiroz getting his tactics spot on. Lionel Scaloni however has some questions of his own to answer, most notably how to get their tournament up and running with three much-needed points over Paraguay.
It all started so well for Paraguay in their first group clash, going 2-0 up over Qatar early in the second half, before crumbling late on to draw 2-2. Nevertheless, they’ll take heart from Argentina’s issue and shall firmly believe they can cause a shock. After all, they earned four points in their two meetings in qualification for the World Cup in Russia.
First and foremost, quotes of 4/9 on Argentina winning this game offer no appeal whatsoever. For all that they obviously have the more talented squad, the same old issues were raised in the Colombia match. Whilst Colombia are also much stronger than Paraguay, they still hold some threats that Argentina could well struggle against at times. The big key is if they can get Messi into the right areas so he can cause the damage we all know he can.
My first instinct was to get Argentina and Messi onside. Normally in their time of need the Barcelona man steps up to bail them out. I fancy them to finish second in this group, so they’ll probably win this game, but any scorer market involving Messi just has no value at all in comparison to literally every other player in world football these days. Paraguay will obviously have a plan for him, and Argentina are just one to avoid at the moment.
What we notice looking at the form guide for Paraguay over a prolonged period of time is that they’re ultimately used to losing games of football. Having said that, they’ve not actually played that many matches over the last few years. In 2018, they only appeared in three friendly matches. However, we can only go on the numbers, and that reads only eight victories for them since their World Cup qualifying campaign began.
That is simply terrible. Only five of their last 16 games have been at home however, so that is worth taking into account. What is also worth noting is they claimed four points over Argentina in World Cup qualifying, keeping clean sheets on both occasions. We have to acknowledge that Messi appeared in neither of those, so a bigger test surely awaits for them.
Play your cards right
Finding an angle on this game therefore doesn’t immediately jump off the page, but there is only angle which offers great appeal. All of us who watch a lot of South American football knows that the match officials can be a bit card happy to say the least!
In the first round of group matches we already saw two red cards issued. VAR of course is taking centre stage here and everything is highlighted. We're seeing an average of four cards per game so far.
Brazilian Wilton Sampaio will officiate this particular game, and looking at his numbers we can expect a few cards to some out of his pocket. He has only refereed three Brazilian Serie A matches so far, averaging just under five yellows per game. In the three Copa Libertadores contests, he issued three yellows and two reds. Six yellows were awarded in his only Copa Sudamericana event, too.
During the latest World Cup qualification stage, he oversaw six matches, giving out 26 bookings and two reds. He loves a card!
With Argentina desperate to win, and knowing Paraguay will make it tough for them, frustrations will boil at some stage. Paraguay will likely dish out a physical approach to Messi and co to keep them as quiet as possible. I really like the look of Over 50 Booking Points at 13/10 (Betfair).
Six bookings or at least three yellows and a red would see this pay out. This might seem like a lot, but it would have paid out in both of the opening group clashes involving Argentina and Paraguay.
Argentina v Paraguay – Over 50 Booking Points (13/10 Betfair)