Unpredictable start to World Cup

World Cup odds (as of June 21):

Argentina: 30.00


A finalist at the World Cup four years ago, Argentina is now facing the possibility of not advancing to the knockout stage at this year's event in Russia.

The prospect of that happening certainly encapsulates the craziness that can take place in the group stage. It's not like the road to the round of 16 was going to be easy for Argentina, one of the world's soccer powers. But in a group that also featured Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia, the expectation was that the 2014 runner-up would advance and do so without any real issue.

That is now in serious jeopardy.

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After entering Thursday's match as the favourite against Croatia, the Argentinian contingent suffered a meltdown in the second half. They conceded three goals, while things turned progressively hostile between the two sides as reality of a disappointing loss set in on Argentina.

The win clinched top spot in Group D for Croatia, which now sits 2-0 with six points. The loss kept Argentina at just a single point following that nation's opening draw with the plucky underdogs from Iceland.

Not all is lost for Argentina. (And Hank the Raccoon for that matter. Our woodland friend had Argentina going to the semifinals against England . . .)

They still had a chance to advance to the next round. Their fate, however, rested on getting a result against Nigeria next week, but was also dependent on the result of Iceland versus Nigeria on Friday.

Given how things have shaken down for Argentina through two games, can anyone really be confident this team will absolutely get the result it needs to get through?

They have scored only one goal in the tournament so far. That came against an Iceland team playing its first-ever World Cup match in the nation's soccer history. With the game on the line, Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick that would've regained the lead for Argentina late in the second half.

They had their chances against Croatia, but ultimately failed to bury the equalizer before suffering a full-on collapse late in the second half.

Argentina came into the World Cup among the favourites, with odds of 10.00 to win and 8.68 per cent of the money on them to win outright. Their odds to win their first match with Iceland were 1.28, while Iceland was, not surprisingly, an underdog with odds of 11.00 to win.

That is the thing about the group stage. The cream of the crop usually rises to the top by the end of the tournament, but there is always room for a few surprises - or a shock, or two - along the way, especially in the opening games.

The defending champions from Germany - and one of the top favourites to win in 2018 - were stunned in an opening defeat against Mexico.

Japan was an underdog against Colombia, but managed a 2-1 upset win.

Brazil, the current outright favourites, didn't look particularly impressive in a draw with Switzerland.

We've discussed at length the draw between Iceland - population of just over 330,000 - and soccer power Argentina, and the ultimately unsuccessful penalty kick off the foot of the player you'd want the most in that situation.

We've discussed the fact that a pre-tournament contender like Argentina is facing the possibility of not advancing beyond the group stage.

Other results have come right down to the wire, like the thriller between Portugal and Spain that ended in a 3-3 draw and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the hat trick (at odds of 90.00), or England's Harry Kane scoring in stoppage time to give England a 2-1 victory over underdog Tunisia.

One would expect that by the time the semifinals roll around, the elite soccer nations would have earned a place in the final four. Argentina faces a difficult - but not impossible - road in merely getting out of the group stage.

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