World Cup Wednesday best bets: Argentina to beat Poland for Group C crown
Wednesday brings another four-game slate as we inch toward elimination play at the World Cup.
Let's explore our best bets centered around a pair of Group C fixtures.
Mexico enters this fixture with one point, but it hasn't played all that poorly; at least defensively.
The Mexicans have been very stout without the ball, conceding only 1.30 expected goals thus far. Just four teams in the tournament have allowed fewer.
Offensively, Mexico has predictably struggled to open teams up and create opportunities with any frequency. Its expected goal output of 1.0 ranks it lower than all but Costa Rica and, surprisingly, the Netherlands.
As bad as Mexico has played on that side of the ball, it still only boasts a minus-0.3 expected goal differential. Saudi Arabia, for comparison, owns a minus-1.9 xG differential.
The Saudis have looked surprisingly potent on the ball, but they've given up twice as much at the other end. Not ideal.
With a win - and a little help - Mexico still has a real chance of advancing to the Round of 16. Expect more aggressiveness with the ball: As we've seen through the first couple of games, the Saudis can be exploited defensively.
Hirving Lozano should have a lot of the ball, and he has the pace and creativity to make Saudi Arabia pay. If he can help facilitate a goal or two, Mexico's defense appears capable of pulling its weight at the other end.
Look for Mexico to claim three points in a relatively low-scoring affair.
Bet: Mexico & Under 4.5 (+105)
On the surface, Argentina is off to a disappointing start to the World Cup. The Argentines failed to beat a pedestrian Saudi Arabia side in the opener and followed that up with a rather lifeless offensive performance - they generated only five shot attempts - against Mexico.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Dig a little deeper, and those first two games look far better.
Argentina destroyed Saudi Arabia in the chance department in its stunning loss. The former had 148 goals taken away, while the latter turned just 0.14 expected into a pair on the scoreboard. The process was there for Argentina; the result wasn't.
The Argentines followed that up by suffocating Mexico's attack, holding it to four shot attempts and less than 0.30 expected goals.
Thanks to a remarkably strong defense, Argentina owns a plus-2.1 expected goal differential (2.5 xG, 0.40 xGA) through two games.
That the Argentines haven't come alive shouldn't be overly concerning. With Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, and Co. leading the frontline, this squad has the ability to create offense at a moment's notice. If an opponent isn't getting looks, it's awfully difficult to beat a team with this much firepower.
Poland will likely have a tough time creating offense in this game. The Poles looked better last time out in an open game against Saudi Arabia, but they struggled mightily in the opener against Mexico, as a penalty kick for Robert Lewandowski accounted for most of their expected goal share.
Considering Argentina is a couple of tiers above Mexico without the ball, it stands to reason Poland will struggle once again.
Look for Argentina to grind out a low-event win to take Group C.
Bet: Argentina & Under 3.5 (+100)
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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