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Saturday's WCup Tips

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Belgium vs. Argentina (ABC 12:00 p.m. ET)

The second pair of quarterfinals take place on Saturday, and two more excellent matches are anticipates. Argentina are the favourites to qualify for the final from this half of the draw, but can someone else cause a surprise?

First up Argentina face Belgium in Brasilia. Both teams put in unconvincing performances in their last 16 matches, before coming through after extra time. That half an hour of football will have had an effect on both teams, and the temperature in Brasilia, while nothing on what we have seen in the far north of the country, will be high. It could lead to a rather slow, patient game with few goals.

Argentina were dreadful for much of their game against Switzerland. There was no cohesion to the team, and the Swiss could well have nicked it. Angel Di Maria scored the 118th minute winner, but the Real Madrid man, having ended the season so well, has been completely off the pace at this World Cup, which has been a major source of Argentina’s problems. The squad does not have quite the depth in quality of some others, and so only one enforced change will be made: left-back Marcos Rojo is suspended, so left-footed centre-back José Maria Basanta looks set to fill in.

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Belgium have somehow won all four games at this World Cup (admittedly against four fairly average opponents), but there has been little from their performances to suggest that they are capable of winning the World Cup. Having crashed from 500/1 in 2010 to going off at 13/1 to win the World Cup, there is a sense that Belgium have become overhyped. Nonetheless, they are still here and deserve credit.

Argentina are the 23/20 favourites with Sportsbook.ag, and this looks a price to be piled into. The vast numbers of Argentines pouring into Brazil will almost make the match a home game for Alejandro Sabella’s side. The importance of having the crowd behind you was emphasised hugely in Brazil’s win over Colombia. Like Brazil, Argentina seem to thrive under pressure and have a way of getting the job done when they’re not playing well. A draw is 11/5 with Belgium 27/10 to win inside 90 minutes. The ‘To Qualify’ market has Argentina at 5/9 and Belgium 157/100.

Bookies are expecting a low-scoring game: over 2.5 goals is 29/20 with the under option a 61/100 shot. In the first goalscorer market Lionel Messi leads the way at 14/5 and, for once, this may not be a bad price on him breaking the deadlock.

Top Bet: Argentina to win at 23/20

Costa Rica vs. Netherlands (ESPN, 4:00 p.m. ET)

The last quarterfinal, and the fifth last game of the whole World Cup, sees Netherlands play Costa Rica at the Fonte Nova in Salvador. Costa Rica are the surprise packages of the World Cup, but it is a 5/22 shot that their great journey will come to an end tonight against Holland, the only team left to have won all their games so far. Los Ticos played for over an hour against Greece with 10 men before winning on penalties.

The Dutch were five minutes from going out of the World Cup, before an extraordinary turnaround of goals in the 88th and 90th minutes put them through and sent Mexico home. The draw has opened out nicely for Louis van Gaal’s side - it’s not often you get to play a side as weak on paper as Costa Rica in a World Cup quarter-final.

Nigel De Jong is out of the World Cup with a groin strain, and so the impressive and versatile Daley Blind will step into defensive midfield, with Bruno Martins Indi playing on the left. Either that or Leroy Fer will come in as a straight swap. For Costa Rica, Oscar Duarte is suspended, and he will have to be wary of tiredness creeping into members of his squad after going the full distance against Greece.

I feel Costa Rica may have been unfairly written off here. While Arjen Robben is truly exceptional, this Dutch team looks pretty ordinary otherwise. Costa Rica managed to top the ‘group of death’, and the gritty win over Greece showed their mental strength. They have possibly the goalkeeper of the tournament in Keylor Navas, a defence that has conceded just twice in four matches, and a quick, dangerous forward in Joel Campbell. They are 6/1 to win in normal time and 7/2 to qualify. Holland are 1/2 to win, and a draw in 90 minutes is priced up at 63/20.

Holland have improved steadily throughout games, and Costa Rica will tire. As this happens, Robben’s influence will grow and, in the end, I expect the Oranje to get through. It may be worth getting on the half-time draw at 11/10. Both these sides played out exceptionally dull first halves in their last 16 ties, and Costa Rica have the ability to frustrate their opponents.

Top Bet: Draw at half-time at 11/10

  
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