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Preview: Argentina v Greece, 21/06, 19:30

Argentina will seek to mathematically ensure their passage into the second round, in this final group game with Greece.  With six points to their name already, La Albiceleste are essentially through, unless they suffer a heavy defeat and South Korea beat Nigeria by several clear goals. However, momentum is of great importance at a World Cup and Maradona’ smen will be looking to ensure theirs remains by securing maximum points and sending out a warning to their rivals in the process.

History

Argentina and Greece have met just once before and it was a memorable occasion for more reasons then one.  The setting was the group stages of USA 94 and Argentina produced a fantastic performance to thump the Greeks 4-0. Gabriel Batistuta, making his World Cup debut, bagged a hat trick, yet the limelight was well and truly stolen by none other then Diego Armando Maradona. Scoring the third goal, an overjoyed Maradona celebrated in what one might describe as an over enthusiastic manner.

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The scream into the cameras certainly raised eyebrows and unsurprisingly Maradona was called in for a routine drug test, which he failed, and was sent home never to play for Argentina again.

Team News

Jonas Gutierrez is definitely out, as he will serve a one match ban for collecting two yellow cards and will probably be replaced by Nicolas Otamendi.  Walter Samuel’s injury against South Korea was not serious, but he will probably still sit out to be replaced by Inter teammate  Nicolas Burdisso.  Juan Sebastian Veron is fit again and may well return, while it has been speculated that Mario Bolatti, Segio Aguero and Diego Milito will start in place of Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain who will be rested.

Otamendi is set to start

The Opposition

It would take a very optimistic man to bet against Greece earning any thing more then a defeat in this game.  Nothing short of awful in their opening game against South Korea, Otto Rehhagel’s  men did improve against Nigeria, albeit with the aid of a sending off and horrendous goalkeeping error.  However should the Greeks manage to win, they will almost certainly make it to the last sixteen and as unlikely as a  that might seem they should not be completely written off.

Captain Karagounis

Fanis Gekas was top scorer in the European qualifying and though he is yet to find the net in South Africa, the Bundesliga based foward could trouble Argentina, especially if Martin Demichelis does not up his game.  Captain Giorgos Karagounis’ career has never really matched his talent, but still possess a fine range of passing and a mean long distance shot.  Panathinaikos forward Dimitris Salpgidis was impressive against Nigeria and will have been encouraged by some of the shaky defending the likes of Demichelis have displayed.

Odds

Yet again Argentina are heavy favourites with odds no better then 8/13, meanwhile Greece’s position as outsiders is reflected by odds of 11/2.  More info at http://www.oddschecker.com/football/internationals/world-cup/greece-v-argentina/win-market

Prediction

I just can’t see anything but an Argentina victory here.  The Greeks Euro 2004 triumph now seems very far away and they just don’t appear to have the attack to seriously worryLa Albiceleste, nor the defence to keep out the likes of Messi and company.  Argentina to win 3-0.

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