Argentina vs Belgium World Cup 2014 match preview: Five reasons why Argentina will beat Belgium

The sides meet in a quarter-final in Brasilia bidding for a place in the last four

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The Independent Football

Ahead of Saturday's quarter-final meeting, we find a few reasons for Argentina to be feeling optimistic against Belgium.

1. Lionel Messi

The man that really needs no introduction, Messi is a magician with a wand of a left foot, his four group stage goals saw the Argentines top their group. Messi’s assist for team-mate Angel Di Maria in extra time against Switzerland, however, proves the key example of how he is the man that will make the difference against Belgium. In any normal scenario Switzerland had the defenders to keep both Messi and Di Maria quiet, but such is Messi’s presence on the pitch, Switzerland’s back four were drawn to him as if by gravitational means. He set up Di Maria, who was in a void of space he never should have had, and Argentina won another game.

2. Belgium have not been tested

Belgium have scraped past valiant American and Algerian sides, beating both 2-1 and have also seen off Russia and South Korea with 1-0 victories, but none of these sides represent the quality Argentina have in their attacking ranks. Belgium have been just about good enough to get to these World Cup quarter-finals but this stern test will show us what they are really made of; also note that Belgium are yet to play a South American team at this World Cup. Argentina will have too much for them. It’s hard to see a team that haven’t yet been tested being able to deal with Messi and Co.

3. Argentina have the experience

The likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Mascherano are vital players for Argentina and alongside players like Ezequiel Garay mean Argentina do deserve more credit for their defensive prowess. These players all ply their trade at Europe’s top club level and have done so for a few years, unlike the majority of those in the Belgian team. When Argentina’s last-16 game with Switzerland really opened up in extra-time, Argentina’s experienced members were the men providing a more solid balance than in other recent tournaments, giving their dazzling forwards a greater license to attack.

4. Belgium's time will come later

Aside from some scrappy, average performances, we must realise how young this Belgian team is. On the world stage they are vastly inexperienced, Belgium haven’t played in a major international tournament since 2002, when current manager Marc Wilmots was their star man. This young squad of mercurial talent will surely challenge for European and world titles in the years to come, but you get the feeling that this World Cup in Brazil has come too early for them, and that they will come back a better outfit in the future.

Diego Maradona faces four Belgian defenders at the 1982 World Cup

5. Fate

These sides haven’t met since 1986, when a Maradona brace was enough to see off Belgium in a 2-0 World Cup semi-final win. Argentina went on to win the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. A lot of people may not believe in fate but the stars do seem to be aligning for Argentina. It feels like Messi’s year, and it looks like he may emulate Maradona on a number of different levels, with victory over Belgium being one of them. Argentina even got themselves a relatively easy group by World Cup standards, and ended up on the easier side of the draw for the knockout stages too. It’s Argentina’s tournament to lose.