Lionel Messi left his first mark on the 2014 World Cup with a superb goal after creating Argentina’s first, despite having an otherwise frustrating game.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella set up in a 3-5-2, with Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo operating as the two wing backs – they stretched the width of the pitch well and created good areas of space for Argentina to play into. However despite the time they had on the ball, their first half play was lethargic, and the slow tempo restricted their ability to carve out opportunities.
Above: With the pitch stretched by the wing backs and the midfield three very far apart, the ball was having to travel a lot in the first half, and it was being stroked around slowly instead of zipped in quickly.
Angel Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez played ahead of Javier Mascherano (who played in the holding role just ahead of Frederico Fernandez), while Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi led the line. There were initial struggles getting the first ball out of defence into midfield at pace. This saw Messi dropping deep at every opportunity, and Aguero seeing very little of the ball. In fact, early on the main threat came from Rojo, who was very aggressive down the left flank, and Zabaleta.
Bosnia set up in a 4-2-3-1 with Edin Dzeko the target man up front, meanwhile Miralem Pjanic and Muhamed Besic held the midfield. Pjanic made 3 tackles and 4 successful dribbles, while Besic also had a good game. They were industrious, but didn’t get much joy from their attempts to get the ball into Dzeko or in behind the defence.
Bosnia did have some joy however, when they could get in the spaces between left/right centre back and wing back, and Sabella reacted to this at half-time by switching to 4-3-3. The 3-5-2 didn’t really work at all for Argentina and probably won’t be used again in the tournament.
As you can see, Bosnia created their fair share of chances, and had more than Argentina. They were able to finally capitalise on this late in the game but it wasn’t to be.
The mettle of Argentina may well be in question looking into the later stages of the tournament. Despite a slow start to the game they began to tire as the game wore on, eventually leaving three players up for each attack and neglecting defensive duties.
This group looks to be brewing an intriguing battle for 2nd place, as Argentina will now expect to cruise through to the last 16. However Iran’s draw with Nigeria will help Bosnia’s chances now as you’d expect them to beat both sides to claim 2nd spot.
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