World Cup semi-final predictions: Back Argentina to win to nil vs Croatia, Morocco can take France all the way | Football News

Argentina’s defence isn’t getting enough plaudits and Jones Knows thinks there is huge value in backing it to keep a clean sheet against Croatia.

Any winners for Jones Knows in the knockout stages?

  • Morocco vs Spain to go to penalties (11/2)
  • Seven or more South Korea shots vs Brazil (Evs)
  • USA to have two or more first half shots on target (5/6)
  • Argentina to win & under 3.5 goals (5/6)
  • Manuel Akanji to have one or more shots vs Portugal (11/10)
  • Argentina vs Netherlands to go to penalties (9/2)
  • Over 2.5 goals in France vs England (Evens)

Argentina vs Croatia, Tuesday 7pm

Argentina vs Croatia

If Argentina win this World Cup, it will be Lionel Messi taking centre stage – and rightly so. But whilst the cameras focus on him, we should also be doffing our caps to this Argentina side’s organisation in their defensive play.

This line from my colleague Adam Bate perfectly outlines the Argentina way in this World Cup: “There is a simpatico relationship between one genius and the 10 men who appear willing to do anything and everything that is required to help him.”

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot
Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot

It’s a thing of beauty, an absolute masterclass in how to restrict an opposition to low probability chances. In five matches at this World Cup, Argentina have allowed just 22 shots on their goal to a total expected goals against figure of 1.83. To put it into context Croatia conceded 21 shots in their fixture with Brazil to an expected goals figure of 2.53.

These insane numbers work out a per-90 minutes average of 4.4 shots conceded and 0.36 worth of expected goals against. Even Manchester City don’t work at those sort of defensive levels.

Somehow though Argentina have conceded five goals – two of those coming against Saudi Arabia, which is quickly becoming one of the most freakish results in World Cup history. I think that actual record is factored into the market too much here when assessing the expected goals against data, meaning backing an Argentina win without conceding in this match is a value play, especially against such a timid attacking outfit like Croatia.

They simply don’t possess the pace or attacking intent to truly trouble a team with such amazing defensive numbers like Argentina carry. Barring cutting loose against a woefully open Canada team, Croatia have scored just two goals across their other four games and even their late equaliser against Brazil – their first shot on target in the match – was absolutely dripping with the fluke factor.

Historically, goals are sparse at this stage of a World Cup with the 90-minute average hitting just 2.1 goals from the last 20 semi-finals. Clean sheets are common though with 13 teams keeping the gates closed from that sample size, working at a very appealing 65 per cent strike rate.

Those numbers make the 13/8 with Sky Bet for an Argentina win to nil a very shrewd play considering that implies a 38 per cent chance of the bet landing. I’d have it much closer to the 50 per cent mark.

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-0 | BEST BET: Argentina to win to nil (13/8 with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)

France vs Morocco, Wednesday 7pm

France vs Morocco

Is this the game where Morocco concede a goal from an opposition player at this World Cup?

They are taking on a French front four that have produced explosive attacking metrics in the four games they’ve started together. And even when Kylian Mbappe was tamed by Kyle Walker, Oliver Giroud and Antoine Griezmann stepped up.

However, this is not a vintage France side. There are flaws in their shape without the ball that will provide opportunities for Morocco to exploit. The 1/2 with Sky Bet for France to win in 90 minutes looks awfully skinny when factoring in this is also arguably an away game for the French such is the raucous Morocco support. I think this one might go all the way.

With this deadly French attack taken to find a way through, it’s likely that the game-state is going to require Morocco to play with much more attacking intent as their tournament is on the line. A way to profit from such a scenario is to invest in the Morocco shots line, which looks like an angle to exploit with the line set at nine or more shots at Evens with Sky Bet.

Although semi-finals are low scoring affairs, from the past 20 last-four matches, teams are averaging just over 13 shots per 90 minutes as the jeopardy when falling behind creates more risks being taken so the game can open up.

Also, France aren’t a team to go pressing and are happy to defend deep. That style does see plenty of opportunities for shots on goal for the opposition. England managed 16, Poland 12 and Denmark 10, suggesting that Morocco can follow suit if – as expected – they are having to chase the game at some point.

SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1 (Morocco to win on penalties) | BEST BET: Nine or more Morocco shots (Evens with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)

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