Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 match report: Lionel Messi gets Argentina up and running with magical strike at the Maracana

Mercurial forward gets his goal at the legendary stadium

Argentina took over the Maracana and Lionel Messi eventually took command of the stage last night as Argentina defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1. The victory may well be the initial step on the way to Argentina winning the World Cup for what would be the first time in 28 years.

The two-time champions were somewhat underwhelming against a Bosnia side playing in their first ever game in a World Cup, but eventually did enough to put their first points on the board.

It was Messi who completed the win with a brilliant strike, but Argentina still have work to do to fine-tune their team. The experiment with a new formation did not work, and they were made to work very hard. The somewhat laboured display for much of the match, however, was at odds with their lightning beginning.

Argentina started with great attacking intent and they were ahead within three minutes.Alex Sabella’s side began the game at an extraordinary tempo, which brought them to the brink of the Bosnian box. The only recourse for the World Cup debutants was to foul. From the subsequent free-kick delivered by Messi, the ball bounced into the net off the unfortunate defender Sead Kolasinac.

 

Argentina’s relentless pace was rendering the opposition irrelevant. The goal will have been all the more pleasing for manager Sabella because, before the game, he had highlighted the European team’s aerial physicality as a particular concern. Yet Argentina simply bullied them back.

The goal, and the beginning period of the match, also made the Argentinian manager’s surprising switch to 5-3-2 initially look like the right tactical decision. That formation has drawn parallels between Messi and Diego Maradona in 1986, given that it was Carlos Bilardo, then the Argentina manager, who effectively invented that formation in order to maximise the potential of the older Argentinian legend.

Messi was the focal point of this formation  last night. This is expected to be his World Cup, his defining statement. Yet he was initially rather quiet.

Messi managed to get on the ball a few times in the opening minutes, only to then be clattered in a tackle by the industrious Muhamed Besic.

The Barcelona playmaker did not exactly show the same willingness to be so abrasive himself. At one point when Bosnia and Herzegovina finally got some possession, the ball was being played around just a few yards from Messi. Rather than actually go and press, he let it go, which led to the European side’s first attack of the game. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was forced into a save, and Argentina had due warning.

Moments later, Miralem Pjanic went close with a free-kick. The fact that Bosnia had these early chances suggested that this game was perhaps going to be a little closer than some imagined, not least after the opening few minutes. For much of the first half, in fact, it was arguably Bosnia who had the better of the ball. Messi could not quite get his foot on it enough, and only offered two real runs of note early in the first half, before being crowded out on both occasions.

His apparent drop-off in form was reflective of Argentina’s, as the early energy started to fade. Their play no longer matched the buzz of their many fans in the stands inside the Maracana.

The 5-3-2 formation suddenly did not appear quite as good a fit as it first seemed, and Bosnia and Herzegovina certainly were not holding back. On 41 minutes they were almost back on level terms, as a thunderous Senad Lulic effort brought an excellent save from Romero.

Safet Susic’s Bosnia side were not intimidated by the occasion of a first World Cup game, but instead seemed emboldened by it, as is often the case with such teams. Similarly, they were definitely not deflated by the early goal.

Sabella used the half-time interval to make two substitutions and revert to a 4-3-3. Fernando Gago came on for Hugo Campagnaro, and Gonzalo Higuain was also introduced.

It had become clear that Sabella’s tactic of using four players to mark Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko, as was the case in the first half, was a waste of resources. Sabella sought to rectify it.

If the dynamic of the team immediately changed, the dynamic of the game did not. Bosnia and Herzegovina kept coming, kept causing Argentina problems.

The Bosnians were physical, well organised but perhaps just lacking penetration.

Messi finally provided some of his own with a brilliant run 10 minutes into the second half. In the type of move the playmaker has become famous for, he weaved through three defenders before drawing more towards him then slipping the ball through to Sergio Aguero.

However, the Manchester City striker was not at his best either, as his shot which blazed over the bar illustrated. Having barely touched the ball in the first half, he clearly had not found his range in the second half.

It soon became apparent, however, that Messi had not lost his ability to raise his game. On 65 minutes, the No 10 picked the ball up on the edge of the box, delicately maneouvred the ball into space, and then drove it in off the post.

The entire Maracana chanted his name, and Messi himself let out a roar. It was Messi’s first World Cup goal since 2006.

He suddenly looked a different player in a different mood. With 10 minutes to go, he burst through the centre of the pitch, looking to play a one-two before just being denied his second of the game by a sliding Bosnian body.

Moments later, though, it was 2-1. Bosnian substitute Vedad Ibisevic slipped the ball under Romero to give Argentina’s defence something to think about.

At the very least, Messi and Sabella can think about the next game feeling a bit more comfortable.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines