Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:03 AM
Rd 16 - Saturday's Best Bets
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World Cup: Round of 16 Preview - Day 1
France vs. Argentina (FOX, 10:00 a.m. ET)
France have been far from convincing at this tournament, edging past Peru and Australia before playing out the only 0-0 draw of the group stage in a lifeless match against Denmark. However they faced three sides that set up very defensively, and it could well be that facing Argentina will suit Didier Deschamps’s side better.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men endured a traumatic group stage and were only saved by the unlikely figure of Marcos Rojo, whose late volley in the third group game saw them qualify ahead of Nigeria.
One big factor in France’s favour here may be Argentina’s tiredness. Sampaoli’s sides play at great pace anyway, and the Albiceleste had to be at it all game against Nigeria. This is in contrast to France who rotated heavily against Denmark - and those that did play barely ran anyway.
But the real reason to get behind France at 29/20 here is simply that Argentina have got nowhere near dispelling the worries about them before the tournament.
Lionel Messi finally arrived at the World Cup party against Nigeria as he fired his side into the lead, but this side still looks a mess. Sampaoli seems to have absolutely no idea what his preferred system is. He keeps changing his centre-forward. Often, Argentina’s bench looks stronger than their first XI. It’s a mess.
And their defence is painfully slow. Although France have not looked like a cohesive attacking unit so far, they have enough individual talent in the forward positions to simply beat Argentina’s defenders one-on-one.
These are two vulnerable big guns. It is hard to see either winning the World Cup. But France should just about have the edge here.
Prediction: France 2-1 Argentina
Top Bet: France at 29/20
Uruguay vs. Portugal (FOX, 2:00 p.m .ET)
The struggles of the traditional World Cup powerhouses was one of the major stories of the group stages. Germany are out. France have been unconvincing Argentina are hopelessly flawed. Spain played well at times but have been better in the past. Brazil have played good stuff for long periods, but are not a team to blow others away.
And so this World Cup presents a huge opportunity for a “Tier 2” nation to secure a precious trophy. And two of them - Uruguay and Portugal - face off in what looks like a fascinating encounter. By fascinating, I do not mean high-scoring. Under 2.5 is incredibly short here at 2/5. A 0-0 - a scoreline that becomes more common in the knockout stages - is 9/2.
Both teams are reasonably similar. A strong defence, an industrious midfield with a few creative sparks, and stars (or in Portugal’s case - one star) up front.
I fancy Uruguay here simply because their defence is better than Portugal’s. In fact, if Jose Gimenez is fit, it is the best defence in the tournament. If they go ahead, Uruguay will be an absolute nightmare to break down.
Luis Suarez, who struggled badly in the first game, looks to have got his form back, while Edinson Cavani was also excellent in their 3-0 win over Russia.
Portugal were indebted to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance against Spain in a match where the opposition dominated. They were lucky to beat Morocco before drawing 1-1 to Iran.
This will be a tense, tight encounter between two well-matched sides, but it is Uruguay who look narrowly more likely to advance to the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Uruguay 1-0 Portugal
Top Bet: Uruguay to qualify at 10/11