Argentina vs Australia Prediction
3rd December 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
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World Cup Head-to-Head Record
Argentina vs Australia Match Overview
For our Argentina vs Australia prediction in the World Cup round of 16 knockout stage, the match promises to be a classic David vs Goliath clash, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. For Australia, if they can somehow emerge from this match with a victory, it would represent their best-ever World Cup showing – they have reached this stage before on one occasion, suffering a somewhat harsh injury-time loss to eventual champions Italy in 2006. For Argentina, this stage of the competition is somewhat familiar territory, as this is the 14th time they have reached the knockout stage.
Both sides tasted defeat in their opening group game, with the Australians suffering a heavy 4-1 defeat at the hands of the French after taking the lead early in the first half. Argentina’s opening group game loss was more noteworthy – taking a 1-0 lead into half-time through a Lionel Messi penalty, the Argentineans must have thought that the game was safe against the Saudis. However, two goals in quick succession from Al Shehri and Al Dawsari turned the game on its head, and Argentina were both ineffectual and profligate in equal measure thereafter as they toiled to find an equaliser that never came.
Both sides managed to get their World Cup campaigns back on track, with a 1-0 win for Australia against an obdurate Tunisian side and a routine 2-0 victory over Mexico for Argentina bringing both nations to the verge of qualification. That said, Denmark were heavy favourites (perhaps unjustifiably so with the benefit of hindsight) and Australia took their big chance through a Mathew Leckie goal of the highest quality. Argentina for their part dismissed a dismal Poland team with ease and frankly would be disappointed with their two-goal margin of victory against such a poor performance from the Poles. The winner of this group game earns the right to face the winners of the opening knockout round fixture between the Netherlands and the USA.
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Argentina vs Australia Analysis
The first thing to focus on for our Argentina vs Australia prediction is that it’s imperative for Argentina that they move the ball quickly and with precision; playing an endless series of sideways passes and a slow, deliberate tempo will play right into the hands of the Australians who are well-organised at the back. Thankfully for the Argentineans, they’ve shown their ability to play with a high tempo in the middle of the park, particularly against Poland, and more of the same will surely be required here. De Paul, Fernandez and Mac Allister were always a step ahead of their opponents in their final group games and with Australia – despite their qualification for the round of 16 – not possessing more quality in midfield than the much-maligned Polish side, Australia could be in for a very long night indeed.
Australia will be keen the ensure that Argentina can’t settle into long, comfortable passages of possession and therefore they must strike a delicate balance of harrying the Argentineans in possession while being careful not to lose their defensive shape. While they were stretched and pummelled into submission in their group opener against France, their performance against Denmark will give them hope as they reduced the Danes to playing a more agricultural style of football in the last 20 minutes or so. Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine will have to be supplemented by the likes of Craig Goodwin and Mathew Leckie tracking back and coming inside to help the Australians cope in the middle of the park and help the team stay compact.
Argentina will look to stretch the play as often as possible to provide their attacking midfielders and forwards with more room to operate, and therefore we expect to see a continuation of their 4-3-3 formation with Angel Di Maria, Marcos Acuna and Nahuel Molina all providing a constant threat from out wide when required. Lionel Messi will be playing a free role so we can expect Messi to be attempting to operate in wide positions at times. As stated earlier, Australia will almost certainly look to retain a compact shape with two banks of four and will be happy to concede possession in wide areas, so Argentina need to be clever with their interplay to create profitable overloads.
Australia look to counter as often as possible with pace, directness and aggression and have done so with remarkable success so far during this tournament. Their wide men, so far Mathew Leckie and Craig Goodwin, have been effective at receiving the ball in space and going at the opposition directly without fear, so Argentina will need to be wary once they lose possession and they must track Australia’s runners no matter how innocuous the situation may seem.
Argentina have an enviable strength-in-depth which allows them to change their approach if Plan A isn’t working, whereas the Australians will mostly use their substitutions to compensate for tired legs. Depending upon who gets the nod to start, an obvious switch would be Julian Alvarez for Lautaro Martinez or vice-versa. Paulo Dybala and Angel Correa have surprisingly not been used in any capacity so far, but both are experienced international campaigners, and Dybala has a creative spark that Argentina could find useful later on.
As stated, Australia tend to use like-for-like substitutions to combat fatigue, but one intriguing option they have off the bench is Ajdin Hrustic. Hrustic was expected by many to start for Australia during this tournament, but perhaps owing to injury and the performances of others he has been confined to 29 minutes in total thus far. Hrustic could provide an important role for Australia with his ability to retain possession and play others in on the break, but we think Australia will field an unchanged lineup to start.
Argentina Key Players
Angel Di Maria
Argentina need to move the ball quickly and with a degree of invention, two things which Di Maria excels in. Not one to play it safe with sterile possessions, we can expect Di Maria to be his usual direct, enterprising self looking to cause panic in the Australian back line. Australia will look to play compact with little width when out of possession, and so the available space is expected to be in wide areas most of the time. Di Maria is perhaps the best equipped of Argentina’s midfielders to take advantage of this tactical situation.
When Argentina advance into the final third, they’re likely to face a swarm of Australian shirts blocking off space, passing lanes and generally defending with a fierce determination and so Argentina will be relying on quick, accurate interplay of the variety that Messi is highly proficient in. Denmark and Tunisia were unable to handle Australia’s low block, but the French showed the way with a high-tempo approach to attack and Argentina also possess the talent to unlock the Australian defence, particularly through their legendary playmaking striker.
Australia Key Players
Argentina created many, many chances against Poland, with goalkeeper Szczesny possibly the only player to emerge with any real credit, and therefore we can extrapolate that Mathew Ryan could also be in for a busy night. Ryan has generally performed well during this tournament, commanding his area extremely well and claiming high balls with a proficiency beyond his physical stature. This game will pose something of a different challenge, with Argentina highly unlikely to resort to playing long balls and high crosses into the area as they don’t have the personnel for it, so it’s Ryan’s reflexes and ability to sweep up attacks off his line which will come into focus.
Harry Souttar was a defensive colossus against Denmark and with Australia likely to be defending for long periods again in this encounter, Souttar will be required to produce another big performance in the heart of Australia’s defence. As Argentina prefer not to play with a target man, it will be important for Souttar to maintain his concentration and track Argentina’s off-ball movement in and around the penalty area in a manner that is perhaps not as instinctive as a bruising personal encounter as he experienced against Tunisia in their second group game.
Argentina vs Australia Prediction
Australia have done exceptionally well up until this point in the tournament, surpassing all expectations and they will be full of confidence against an Argentina side that looked vulnerable during their shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their group opener. That said, Argentina have looked better and better as the tournament has progressed, with Scaloni seemingly settling upon his best team by this point. Argentina are a different proposition to what the Australians faced against Tunisia and Denmark, with France perhaps being a closer frame of reference. We expect the Argentineans to make their breakthrough and to make it a very long night for Australia which will ultimately result in disappointment.
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