All the talk was of Leo Messi replicating Diego Maradona, and Argentina finally winning a third World Cup in the home of their most historic rivals, but coach Alex Sabella was one person with a mind on other matters.
The Argentine manager caused some surprise in the build-up by so conspicuously breaking with his team’s qualification, and experimenting with a 5-3-2. There was reportedly some bafflement around the camp - if not from the players - but Sabella had good reason.
His defence has been notoriously porous, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s attack famously potent. Safet Susic’s side were the second top scorers in European qualifying, only behind Germany. Edin Dzeko, meanwhile, was the second top scorer, only behind Robin van Persie. That’s some company to keep for a team many would consider so callow.
Yet, for all the momentum around Argentina, debutants often possess a distinctive forward motion of their own. Of 35 European teams to have played at the World Cup, 20 have reached the second round in their first tournament, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fearlessness would appear to fit this trend.
ARGENTINA: Group F team profile
ARGENTINA: Group F team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Argentina won the CONMEBOL, ahead of Radamel Falcao’s Colombia and Alexis Sanchez’s Chile. La Albiceleste had trouble getting a result against Venezuela and beating Bolivia, albeit after a 4-1 thrashing of Chile at the opening game. However, the team managed to bounce back with a 2-1 win against Colombia which initiated a 14-match unbeaten streak that led them to the top of the table, even though they fell short against Uruguay in the end. This is the third time Argentina have won the preliminary competition, amassing nine wins and five draws in 16 matches. After setting the pace, the two-time World Cup winners had no problem finishing first whilst tallying 35 goals and only surrendering 15.
Alejandro Sabella faced quite a lot of scrutiny over bad results in the early stages of the CONMEBOL. However, he managed to restore trust at the end of the qualifiers and is now aiming for at least the semi-finals. The former Leeds United player is a manager that insists on team unity and with a Copa Libertadores under his belt he might be looking for an impressive World Cup run.
3/5 Star Player
Lionel Messi – Who else? Albeit a season that included injuries, the 26-year-old managed to score 28 La Liga goals and finish second on the goal scoring table. He is still La Albiceleste’s deadliest weapon that knows how to convert almost all of his chances. With his manager’s full support and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero on his side, the Barcelona striker could finally be on track for World Cup glory.
4/5 Emerging Talent
Although Ezequiel Lavezzi is 29-years-old, he will be playing in his first ever World Cup. The winger’s impressive shooting skills and speed contributed greatly in Paris Saint-Germain’s second consecutive League title and will be much needed for Argentina’s quest for glory.
5/5 How they will line up: (4-3-3)
Romero; Rojo, Fernandez, Basanta, Zabaleta; Mascherano, Di Maria, Gago; Aguero, Higuain, Messi.
Sabella also expressed some concern at their physicality in the air, let alone their technical finesse on the ground, describing them as having typical European qualities. In that, Dzeko could be even more important. The Manchester City forward scored a number of headers in his club’s surge to the Premier League title, and many of them were match-winners. Dzeko’s goals directly provided more points per game than any other player in the division, even Sergio Aguero. Argentina are right to be wary, and the Bosnian can cap a fine year.
Aguero, of course, can do the same himself and there has been an argument that Sabella is testing a new formation in order to put Messi closer to his roommate.
This game may be closer than anticipated.Reuse content