Denmark v Australia: Draw – 5/2
Thursday’s first game pairs two sides who put up resilient resistance in their openers, though only one secured any points for their endeavour. Australia, huge underdogs against France, almost scrapped their way to a draw thanks to the wild hand-waving of Samuel Umtiti in the general direction of the football, but a freakish own goal from Aziz Behich, initially credited to Paul Pogba, proved fatal on the day.
They’ll take heart from that determined performance and know they need a result in this fixture to keep any hopes of progressing alive.
Their opponents endured an onslaught from a Peruvian side who poured forward at every opportunity in their first game. That offensive plan proved costly, with Yussuf Poulsen finishing a Christian Eriksen counter to steal a crucial win.
Australia still have plenty to play for, and are always difficult to break down, even if their team sheet lacks the recognisable names of previous tournaments. Denmark will be satisfied with a draw after seeing off their main rivals for the group’s second spot, and should be able to resist any Aussie charge. The draw is 5/2 and looks a reasonable shout.
France v Peru Both Teams to Score: Yes – Evens
Playmaker Christian Cueva’s Waddlesque penalty tarnished the South American’s return to the World Cup after an absence of more than three decades. That ballooned blast cost his side the shot at a draw, and now they’re left needing a result against the top seeds in the group, assuming Australia can’t win against the Danes, to keep their hopes alive.
They’re more than capable of getting it though, as they created enough chances to win all three of their group games on Saturday. Ricardo Gareca may have been doubting his lust for life following the loss, but the Iggy Pop look-a-like will be anything but a passenger on Thursday, especially as Didier Deschamps still has not settled on a team and tactical system for his side.
Rumours in recent days suggest that Blaise Matuidi could find himself on the left-wing in this game, which goes some way to showing why doubts persist over Deschamps. More conventionally, Olivier Giroud is expected to start having appeared from the bench against the Socceroos and given the team a focal point as they pressed for a winner there.
Gareca’s side will continue to attack with pace and in numbers because they need a result here. France undoubtedly have the talent to exploit any gaps they leave. Expect goals. Both teams to score looks very generous around even money.
Argentina v Croatia Anytime Goalscorer: Lionel Messi – 11/10
Argentina’s anguish from drawing with Iceland was compounded by the failure of their leader to convert from the penalty spot in a game that proved as difficult as Iceland’s reputation suggested.
The thunderous roar of the Scandinavians shook an already fragile defence and, in truth, Iceland could’ve just as easily snatched a winner as the two-time champs.
As is mandatory in any piece on the Euro 2016’s surprise team, it must be said that Iceland will cause problems for anyone they play, however, the Argentine defenders looked shakier than Jack Wilshere’s career prospects, and a meeting with the technically gifted Croats would concern anyone with a long-term interest in the South American’s interests at this tournament.
Croatia won their opener against Nigeria without having to exert themselves. They would fancy their chances here against a side on the brink of World Cup capitulation. Argentina have Leo Messi though, and, after the weekend’s disappointment, he’ll be eager to dig his side out here. We’d expect this to be an exciting game, and Messi should score.
*All odds correct at time of posting