Argentina (-105) at Peru (+300), Draw (+229)
This iteration of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying isn’t going according to script. The usual superpowers are being pushed to the limit by South America’s smaller nations. Lucky for Argentina (4-3-1, 15 pts; third-place), they won’t be facing one of the continent’s upstarts in the next fixture. They’ll be facing an overmatched Peru (2-1-5, 7 pts; ninth-place) at Estadio Nacional de Lima (10:15 PM Eastern, Thursday, Oct 6).
Not only are Argentinian fans in a bit of disbelief that their team is only third in the qualification standings (top-four automatically qualify; fifth-place advances to a playoff), but they’re likely incredulous about the way the games have gone down. The usually high-scoring squad has only managed nine goals through eight matches. (Only Thursday’s opponent, Peru, has scored fewer.) It’s been the defense that’s kept them near the top of the standings. Their six goals-against is second only to Uruguay (5).
While there’s a lot for Argentina to be sour about at this point, there are also some positives to take from the first eight fixtures. They’re the only team that’s undefeated on the road, and they’ve managed to win four of their last five games, only drawing with Venezuela in their last match. The defense has been particularly good away from home, conceding just three times in four matches.
Argentina’s fine form couldn’t come at a worse time for Peru. Currently second-last in the standings, the Peruvians need to start making up some ground if they’re going to keep their World Cup dreams burning brightly. They currently sit six points back of fifth-place Ecuador. They did manage a massive three points against the Ecuadorans last time out, though, ending a four-game losing streak.
Offense and defense have both been issues for Peru. They’ve scored the fewest goals (8) and conceded the second-most (15). That said, most of their struggles come on the road, and they have the luxury of hosting Argentina this time around. They’re 2-1-1 at home so far in qualification, and all eight of their goals have come on home soil.
The head-to-head history is obviously on Argentina’s side. They haven’t lost to Peru in WC qualification since 1985, winning ten of the last 12 qualifiers. The last time they met, Argentina cruised to an easy 3-1 win at home (2013). The last match on Peruvian soil, back in 2012, ended in a 1-1 draw.
Don’t overthink this one. Argentina are rolling. Peru are overmatched. They’ll be fired up in front of their fans, but I still like Argentina to head home with the full three.
Pick: Argentina (-105).
Photo credit: Javid Nikpour CC BY 4.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.