Argentina (+120) vs Portugal (+240), Draw (+220)
Two of the four favorites to win the gold medal in men’s soccer at the Rio Olympic games will clash in a preliminary match this Thursday (5:00 PM Eastern), when Argentina takes on Portugal, at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange.
Entering the preliminary matches, only Brazil (5/6) have better odds than Argentina (6/1) to win the gold medal. While Brazil has never won it before, Argentina took home gold in both 2004 and 2008, and are expected to at least make it back to the podium after failing to qualify in 2012.
Argentina did not waste anytime in qualifying for the 2016 games though, as they were the first country to earn a berth, excluding Brazil as the host. They finished atop their group at the South American Youth Football Championship by beating Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, which earned them a spot in the final stage of the tournament. Here, Argentina would defeat Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Peru again to finish with the most points in the final grouping, earning themselves a spot in the Rio Olympics.
The Argentineans scored 24 goals in the nine games played during the tournament, an average of 2.66 goals per game, and the man to watch is River Plate’s Giovanni Simeone, who netted a tournament leading nine goals.
However, Portugal will provide Argentina with a much tougher test than they saw in their qualifying tournament. Portugal is listed at 9/1 to win the gold medal, which are the fourth-shortest odds behind Brazil, Argentina, and Germany (6/1). The Portuguese have never won the Olympic men’s soccer competition, and their last appearance was a very disappointing one in 2004; despite having Cristiano Ronaldo on the roster, Portugal was eliminated in the group stage.
This current team, lead by coach Rui Jorge, has some big expectations as well, and are riding a 26-game unbeaten streak, which dates all the way back to October 11, 2011. Jorge has fully credited his players for their remarkable run, and has lauded the fact that some of his players are also playing for their senior national team.
With the great expectations being placed on both teams, I expect each to approach this game with a lot of caution, and neither will be eager to take any risks.
Pick: Draw (+220).
(Photo Credit: By The original uploader was ΩΜΕΓΑ at Greek Wikipedia (Transferred from el.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)