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QATAR 2022 was supposed to be Lionel Messi’s Last Dance but he’s in danger of becoming a World Cup wallflower as Argentina flirt with an embarrassing early exit.

Saudi Arabia brought Messi and Co back down to earth with a bump in the Group C opener as they came from behind to end a 36-game unbeaten run from Lionel Scaloni’s side.

The Argentinians only had themselves to blame for failing to put the game to bed after their talisman had opened the scoring from the spot.

They had the ball in the net another three times in the first half only for an offside flag to deny them each time thanks to badly-timed runs.

The Saudis were there for the taking with their daring high press but Scaloni’s side couldn’t take advantage and were then caught with a sucker punch as the shock troops struck twice early in the second half.

If Netflix were writing the script for Messi’s World Cup swan song they would probably chuck in one of the greatest shocks in history to increase the tension and make the ultimate triumph even more remarkable.

Argentina certainly still have the chance to turn things around after Mexico and Poland ground out a stalemate in the other group game.

Two wins would take them into the knockout stage but there’s no margin for error now.

Defeat against the Mexicans tonight could rubber-stamp an early exit and it will be fascinating to see how Messi and his team-mates respond.

The stats suggest they will get back on track with Argentina unbeaten in their last 10 against Mexico and winning 4-0 when the teams last faced off.

That’s reflected in the odds with the Argentines 8/15 favourites with McBookie and Mexico 21/4 shots.

I’d expect Gerardo Martino’s side to sit back and hit on the break as a draw would leave them needing just a win over Saudi Arabia to qualify.

That makes the corner handicap a good option with Argentina -2.5 paying a decent 11/10 at Highbet.

Mexico could also put the boot in and I fancy midfielder Edson Alvarez to fall foul of the ref. He has amassed seven yellows for Ajax this season and is 43/20 at Unibet for a card tonight.

It will be interesting to see if the Saudis opt for the same high-risk offside trap when they take on Poland.

Argentina were flagged an incredible 10 times in that opener so I’m tempted by the 13/10 on offer at Unibet for over 4.5 Poland offsides today.

The Poles didn’t impress in their opener and Robert Lewandowki flopped on the big stage again, having a penalty saved by Guillermo Ochoa.

Despite that, they are McBookie’s 8/11 favourites with Saudi Arabia as big as 4/1 for another shock victory.

Winger Sebastian Szymanski came into the World Cup in great form but didn’t impress in the stalemate with Mexico I’d expect the Feyenoord forward to get another chance today and he’s 5/4 with Bet365 to have a shot on target.

There’s a cracker in Group D today as France face their first major test against a dangerous Denmark team.

Didier Deschamps’ men strolled to a 4-1 win over Australia in their opener after the Danes had toiled in a 0-0 stalemate with Tunisia. So it’s no surprise to see Les Bleus as McBookie’s 3/4
favourites with Denmark at 15/4.

But Kasper Hjulmand’s side beat the French home and away in the Nations League so they are capable of springing a shock. I’m going for BTTS in this one and it’s a best 27/25 at Unibet.

Kylian Mbappe looked in the mood against the Socceroos and Denmark will need to come up with a way to stop him.

Unibet are offering evens on Mbappe winning over 1.5 fouls and that looks good value after the same bet landed for me with Cristiano Ronaldo during Portugal’s clash against Ghana.
Tunisia were pretty impressive in their opener against Denmark and a win over Australia today would put them in a good position to qualify.

The Aussies showed plenty of spirit against France but lack quality at this level so the 11/10 on offer at McBookie for a Tunisia victory looks decent.

The Tunisians won nine corners in their opener so backing them at -1 in that handicap appeals at 11/10 (Bet365).

Super singles

  • Edson Alvarez carded (43/20, Unibet)
  • Over 4.5 Polish offsides (13/10, Unibet)
  • Mpabbe to win over 1.5 fouls (evs, Unibet)
  • Tunisia to beat Australia (11/10, McBookie)

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