Argentina vs Belgium World Cup 2014 preview: Argentina have a tactical dilemma

Lionel Messi will be targeted by Belgium in the quarter-final meeting

After four games and four wins, it is remarkable how much Argentina’s campaign still keeps coming down to the same issue. That is also because they have always delivered the same underwhelming level of performance, and it is thereby difficult to escape the fundamental reality: this entire World Cup looks like it is going to come down to Leo Messi.

Pablo Zabaleta effectively admitted as much after the 1-0 last-16 win over Switzerland, stating that Argentina’s main gameplan is simply to get the ball to the number-10. Now, it looks like Belgium’s own gameplan will be based on preventing that, especially since no other Argentinean attacker looks like reaching anywhere near level.

It is precisely because of that reason, however, that this quarter-final may revolve around one of the South American side’s previous issues: their formation.

This could be exactly why manager Alejandro Sabella was so controversially experimenting with 5-3-2 earlier in the tournament. He now has a fall-back, a fail-safe. It is something beyond so many other sides.


Given that Argentina’s attack is not firing, and attempting to do so without actually pulling it off could leave them so open to Belgium’s lively forwards, he at least has the option to sit back.

It could be all the more crucial after the evidence of the last 16. Following their 2-1 win over USA, many Belgian players spoke of how the opposition’s willingness to attack finally freed them. As such, unless Argentina can properly pin them back, gifting Belgium space behind may gift them the game.

Sabella has to decide. It may not make for the greatest quarter-final, but it could make Argentina’s World Cup.

Anything else may make it a fine opportunity for Belgium.