Argentina continue their quest to land a first World Cup since 1986 when they meet Australia in a favourable-looking Round of 16 tie at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium this evening.
La Albiceleste roared back to silence their critics after their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia on matchday one and they’ve been reinstated as one of the tournament favourites following convincing back-to-back wins over Mexico and Poland.
The Socceroos meanwhile, had supporters dancing in the streets back home following their Group D heroics, though their World Cup fairy-tale in Qatar could be about to get a little Messi.
As per the norm, I’ve put together a stats pack for his evening’s encounter below which should arm you with enough info to add smarter selections to your bet builder coupon. I also recommend reading my Stats Pack Guide if you want the inside track on how to get the most from the statistics.
Argentina have no fresh injuries to report, though Head Coach Lionel Scaloni might be tempted to tweak his XI a little following the short turnaround between games.
Lisandro Martinez, in particular, will have his eyes on a place at centre-half. Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez will be determined to hold on to their spots in midfield and attack respectively after promising showings against Poland.
Australia could name an unchanged team today following their gargantuan victory over Denmark and manager Graham Arnold will understandably be reluctant to change a winning formula.
Mitchell Duke is in line to win his 50th cap for the Socceroos while keeper Matt Ryan will be chasing his 28th clean sheet at international level this evening. In terms of shape and tactical approach, Australia should line up in a 4-4-2 formation, as they have in their last two wins.
Argentina rank fourth at the World Cup for shots attempted per 90, though La Albiceleste’s most impressive numbers have been posted at the back.
Their xG (0.60) and shots on target (1.00) against figures per 90 are remarkably low and it’s interesting to note that they actually conceded fewer attempts in the game they lost against Saudi Arabia (three) than the other matches they won in Group C (four vs Mexico and Poland).
Argentina also managed to win nine corners in two of their three group assignments – a tally that was helped by the 66.9% possession they averaged per contest.
Scanning Australia’s underlying stats for the World Cup is a bit of an eye-opener. The Aussies’ xG against figure is over twice as high as their xG for, while the ratio of shots in their matches also heavily favours their opponents.
Amazingly, only four teams in the tournament have been averaging fewer attempts per 90 and three of those sides have been eliminated. The Socceroos can’t overperform their stats to such an extent forever and they probably don’t expect to either.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Julian Alvarez took the opportunity to showcase his skills with both hands when he started for the first time at the World Cup against Poland on Wednesday. The Man City starlet peppered the Polish goal six times to boost his figures per 90 for the tournament.
Lionel Messi’s efforts have been spread more evenly across his three starts, though he did muster seven shots of his own in that one-sided tussle with Poland.
Angel Di Maria (1.67 p/90) has been enjoying a punt, though his shots have been from an average distance of 24.7 yards and while his accuracy has been decent (50%), his xG of just 0.1 puts his attempts into the “tame” category.
Mitchell Duke, who plays his club football with Japanese second-tier side Fagiano Okayama, has been letting lose with 3.17 shots per 90 in Qatar and he has been a sharp spearhead in an otherwise blunt Australian attack.
McGree (1.30 shots p/90) has been game in midfield, though he, like most of his other teammates, have been posting pretty shoddy numbers in the shots on target stakes.
Indeed, when you remove Duke – who’s had four attempts on target – the rest of the entire Australian squad has landed just three accurate efforts on goal between them (Goodwin, Leckie and McGree).
Player Goals and Assists
In typically impactful style, Lionel Messi has stepped up to the mark for Argentina with three goal contributions in as many games in Qatar, though Enzo Fernandez has shown his class with a goal and assist in successive runouts.
Alexis Mac Allister’s opener against Poland on Wednesday was his first for Argentina, though Julian Alvarez, who had three attempts on target and one goal against the Poles, deserves more of your attention today.
Australia scored exactly once in each of their Group D matches and the identity of their goal-getters changed every time. Mathew Leckie and Craig Goodwin found the net from their only efforts on target in Qatar, while Mitchell Duke scored from his first shot on target of the tournament against Tunisia on matchday two.
If you’re on the hunt for a possible goal provider in Australia’s ranks, then Mathew Leckie, who has already claimed one assist, ranks top for shot-creating actions so far (six).
Argentina have a reputation for producing tenacious tacklers, however, only three teams have picked up fewer bookings than La Albiceleste in Qatar.
Battle-hardened Nicolas Otamendi (1.67 fouls p/90) has so far escaped a caution, though the 34-year-old is one of two centre-halves with card-collecting potential today alongside Cristian Romero (2.11 fouls p/90).
Ahead of those bruisers, Rodrigo De Paul (1.0 foul per 90) is the midfielder who has shown the most bite.
Don’t be dragged in by Miloš Degenek’s fouled per 90 figures. The stand in right-back has started just once in Qatar and he’s accrued his six fouls in 111 minutes of action.
Mathew Leckie (fouled 1.7 times p/90) and Mitchell Duke (1.36) seem likelier to draw meaty challenges from Argentina’s Romero and Otamendi today, while Jackson Irvine (0.69) could be surfing the same waters as Argentina’s sharkiest schemer, Rodrigo De Paul.
Match-Ups to watch
Nicolas Otamendi vs Mitchell Duke
Cristian Romero vs Mathew Leckie
Rodrigo De Paul vs Jackson Irvine
Five different Australian players have been cautioned in Qatar and the Socceroos, who have been committing more fouls per game than Argentina, carry more card potential than the South Americans today.
Aaron Mooy (1.99 fouls p/90 & one card) has been averaging 2.7 tackles per appearance at the World Cup, though that figure should jump today. Fellow midfielder Riley McGree isn’t listed alongside Mooy in our table, though the team-high eight fouls he’s committed should earn him a spot on several coupons today.
Left-back Aziz Behich was booked against Denmark last time out and the 31-year-old should have his wits tested by the slippery Angel Di Maria later on.
Lionel Messi loves teasing markers into making mistimed challenges and the 35-year-old has been fouled 3.00 times per 90 minutes in Qatar. Messi could have his ankles nipped by Aaron Mooy this evening.
Rodrigo de Paul has been the Argentinean’s second-most fouled operator in Qatar and his all-action style could earn him more attention from prolific fouler Riley McGree.
Ángel Di María didn’t squeeze onto our rundown, though the 34-year-old has been fouled four times in three appearances and the winger has the ingenuity to irk Aziz Behich.
Match-Ups to watch
Aaron Mooy vs Lionel Messi
Riley McGree vs Rodrigo de Paul
Aziz Behich vs Ángel Di María