Argentina 1 Iran 0: Lionel Messi strike can't hide Argentina's shortcomings

No dismissing the concerns from this game for Alejandro Sabella

It was the perfect strike, and the perfect World Cup moment. Yet, the very fact that Leo Messi was required to deliver such a resoundingly brilliant goal to defeat Iran 1-0 illustrates that Argentina are not the perfect team. At least not yet.

Although their path into the second round is now secure, the side themselves are at something of a crossroads, with the juncture coming somewhere between their 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 formations.

For all the more attacking set-up releases Messi to do things as miraculous as his magnificent long-ranger winner in Belo Horizonte, that very game displayed why manager Alejandro Sabella went to 5-3-2 in the first place.

It was not just that Iran had a striking number of attacks, any of which could have set up one of the great World Cup upsets. It was the way in which Carllos Quieroz’s attackers so repeatedly and easily revealed the lack of pace in Argentina’s backline.

At one point, Sabella’s side were forced to desperately hack the ball away, in the kind of rare panic you only see when a notionally superior side realises there in trouble against someone usually dismissed.


There was no dismissing the concerns from this game for Sabella.

“I’m worried about this. Of course we want to win obviously so we will try and strike a balance which is not easy but we will try. And sometimes during counter-attack situations, a match is decided. Today things got a little difficult on counter-attacks, especially around the end of the match.”

Right at the end of the match, though, Messi made life very difficult for Iran. It settled the game but still leaves them at that crossroads. The question is whether moments like this will help Argentina grow, or indicate that their shortcomings are too great.