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Argentina vs. Netherlands odds, pick: Why Friday could be the last day of Messi magic with Argentina

Is this the end of the road for Lionel Messi at the World Cup?

Lionel Messi of Argentina  during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)Read moreJACK THOMAS / Getty Images

The entire sporting world will be focused on one man on Friday afternoon: Lionel Messi.

Perhaps the best soccer player of all-time, Messi will step onto the field for a World Cup quarterfinal Friday for what could be his last match ever in an Argentina shirt. Messi and La Albiceleste are favorites to advance past the Netherlands and into the semifinals, but the line is relatively tight. Argentina is -156 to get through to the final four, while the Netherlands is +130 to progress.

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Argentina vs. Netherlands prediction: Pick:

  1. Netherlands to advance (+130, FanDuel)

Argentina vs. Netherlands prediction: Analysis

Despite the fact that they both topped their group, the Netherlands and Argentina failed to impress in the first round of the World Cup.

The Dutch obtained seven of a possible nine points and posted a +4 goal differential, but their expected goals (xG) ledger was -0.3 and even that number was inflated thanks to a dominant 2-0 win over a bad Qatar team on Matchday 3.

Argentina fought back from a shocking Matchday 1 loss to Saudi Arabia, but they were held to 0.3 xG by a pedestrian Mexico side before Poland capitulated against them in the final round robin match.

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And while Argentina’s malaise continued in a Round of 16 tilt with longshots Australia, the Dutch seemed to find another gear in a brilliant, savvy performance against the United States.

The Netherlands ceded possession to the USMNT and when they were able to force a mistake they bolted down the flanks to create scoring chances through crosses or cutbacks. It was a perfect tactical plan and one that could pay off again on Friday.

As a team, Argentina is most comfortable when they are on the ball and able to knock it around and let Messi either get on the end of a scoring chance or create one himself. Messi is a brilliant talent and he makes everyone around him better so that gameplan can always win you a game, but Clockwork Oranje have perhaps the best center-back partnership left in the tournament with Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk. If the Dutch can stymie Messi and take away his space, Argentina’s biggest advantage gets completely muted and La Albiceleste become a pretty average side.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Argentina’s defensive numbers look pretty solid so far in this tournament, but a lot of that success can be chalked up to quality of competition. Thus far, Argentina has faced Saudi Arabia, Poland, Mexico and Australia. The Dutch represent a severe step up in class for this defense and we just saw what Clockwork Oranje can do in transition against the USMNT.

The United States is certainly a worse team than Argentina, but it has similar strengths. Like the USMNT, Argentina wants the game to played in the middle of the pitch. The Netherlands should be able to exploit that by launching counterattacks down the wings to create enough scoring chances to give themselves a real chance at the upset and send Messi into the sunset.

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