Argentina vs Switzerland comment World Cup 2014: Argentina regress to a four out of 10 but will struggle drain them or inspire them?

Despite scoring, Di Maria personified Argentina in the wrong options he picked

Arena Corinthians

As Angel di Maria eventually bent the ball into the Swiss net, it was impossible for Argentina not to get swept away.

The Arena Corinthians shook, and the entire team and staff shared the kind of mass embrace that only such intense emotion can bring. The movement offered a moment that was so starkly and stunningly different to the 118 minutes of dross that preceded it. It was slick, creative, incisive, precise and ultimately so joyous.

Before then, they had been laboured, unimaginative, wasteful and oh so dull and dreary. Far from looking like potentially the best team in this tournament come the final on 13 July, they offered up their worst performance so far, and more than played their role in what was possibly this World Cup’s worst game.

Switzerland’s resiliently deep blockade didn’t help, but Argentina just couldn’t seem to help themselves. Seeming so fitful, they just badly needed a spark. They found it, through the usual source.

 

After almost two hours in which Lionel Messi constantly found himself turning into at least two shuttling defenders, the effort that required from the Swiss eventually tired them enough to leave a few inches of extra space. The Barcelona playmaker took so much more, and ensured Argentina keep on travelling the necessary miles for the quarter-final in Brasilia. He fizzed inside, before finessing the ball through to Di Maria.

It represented the first match of this tournament in which Messi hasn’t scored, but was the first time that he echoed Diego Maradona in providing one of those glorious assists that were just as much a part of the 1986 World Cup as so many brilliant runs and goals.

The question now is about the deeper effect of that late Di Maria strike. What will tell more? The moment or the match?

Will the psychology surrounding such an important goal allow Argentina to move up an extra level and overcome so many of the problems this game highlighted by sheer force of emotion? Or will the problems in the team drag them back down?

The World Cup’s history, after all, is filled with teams who suddenly made quantum leaps of quality after such transformative strikes. Brazil had them in tournaments ranging from 1958 to 2002.

On the flipside, this specific World Cup is filled with sides who have very similar issues. The deep question that surrounds basically all of the main contenders is what will tell first, their strengths or their flaws?

Angel di Maria celebrates his goal with Lionel Messi Angel di Maria celebrates his goal with Lionel Messi Will they eventually catch the right mood, or will they first get caught out? The latter came very close to happening for Argentina here last night, and that is still a very real worry for them.

The numbers still aren’t adding up fully to a workable formation, whether it is  4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 5-3-2. They are not the only figures manager Alejandro Sabella has been mentioning.

Having said that, the opening win over Bosnia and Herzegovina was no more than a “six out of 10”, the coach claimed that the 3-2 victory against Nigeria was finally a “seven” that could be built on. Argentina did not do that, at least in terms of pure performance.

This was a drop to a four out of 10 or worse, and a concerning regression. Switzerland may have impressively frustrated them in constantly leaving at least 10 men in front of every Argentinian attack, but the issues were also further back.

The tightness of that massed Swiss back line was offset by the huge gaps in the Argentinian team. On so many occasions, they played a quick passing move near the wing only to look inside and see acres of space with no option. As such, they repeatedly had to resort to an array of wasteful crosses, which was made all the more puzzling by the poverty of so many of their headers.

It wasn’t the only bad decision the team took, as Di Maria came to personify Argentina in the amount of wrong options he picked. The statistics don’t make pretty reading for the Real Madrid winger: he gave the ball away 51 times throughout the 120 minutes.

And yet, he still offered the only moment that actually counted. It remains to be seen in what way that will count for the development of this Argentina team.

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