In a game that was expected to be Argentina’s announcement of intent in this World Cup, the favorites met stern opposition in the form of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And though Argentina certainly did the business by walking away with the 3 points, it may have been Bosnia and Herzegovina who perhaps made the bigger statement.
Formation & Line-Ups
Argentina (5-3-2-> 3-4-1-2): Romero, Rojo, Campagnaro (Gago 45’), Fernandez, Garay, Zabaleta, Rodriguez (Higuain 45’), Mascherano, Di Maria, Messi, Aguero (Biglia 86’).
Bosnia (4-2-3-1-> 4-1-3-2): Begovic, Bicakcic, Spahic, Mujzda (Ibisevic 70’), Kolasinac, Besic, Pjanic, Lulic, Misimovic (Medunjanin 74’), Hajrovic (Visca 71’), Dzeko
Goals: Kolasinac OG 3’, Messi 65’, Ibisevic 85’
Argentina’s Half-Time Subs
Argentina, by all accounts, are favorites to advance from this group which contains Nigeria and Iran. And they almost certainly will. But in this match against Bosnia, they found it difficult in the early stages of the match. Yes, they scored an early goal, which was unfortunate for Bosnia as Argentina are a team which do not need any help scoring. However, after the goal, Bosnia were looking the superior side. They pressed well and were disrupting Argentina’s passing while looking dangerous going forward.
At halftime, Sabella decided to make a drastic change, bringing on Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain. This change initially looked like it might backfire as Bosnia found a little more space through the middle of the park, but Argentina soon benefitted from it in the build-up to the 2nd goal. Although it was a goal defined by Messi’s signature running and precise shot, the buildup through the middle of the park was nothing short of brilliant and the one-touch passing is what opened up the space for Messi.
Any team that limits this Argentina side to two goals is doing something right and it would have been one if not for a hugely unfortunate own goal by Sead Kolasinac in the 3rd minute. The Bosnian back four barely put a foot wrong all game and saw out some fairly hairy moments. They put Argentina under pressure and forced them to take shots when they weren’t at their most comfortable which led to Argentina only registering 2 shots on goal the entire game, with the other 11 not finding the frame or testing Asmir Begovic.
Sergio Aguero particularly suffered at the hands of Bosnia’s defense with only 3 shots, none of which were on frame, only 62% of his passes completed and 1 failed take on. The Manchester City man found it tough and so did most of the Argentines. Defensive midfield had been a particular question mark before the tournament but Miralem Pjanic and youngster Muhamed Besic had fantastic performances in the Bosnian midfield and they will need to keep up their form in the future.
Lionel Messi is key, but Lionel Messi is key
No one will be shocked that Messi was integral to Argentina’s success today, but Argentina will also worry that for large sections of the game, Bosnia’s midfielders marginalized the playmaker. When this happened, Argentina generally failed to create many chances. Messi made 4 of Argentina’s 10 key passes in this game and the chances that were created weren’t converted. If Argentina are to live up to people’s expectations in this tournament, they’ll need improved performances from their other big players.
Aguero was non-existent and although Higuain helped in the build-up to the 2nd goal, he only fashioned one shot in 45 minutes and it was well off-target. Angel Di Maria did not play poorly but really only put his stamp on the game in the late stages and did not create a single chance. This is honestly unacceptable from Argentina’s support for Messi and they will have to be better in the coming games.
KEY PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Miralen Pjanic: Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi popped up for Argentina today and put in the performance they needed to get the 3 points off of Bosnia. However, for my best player, I’m going to give it to the player marking the world’s greatest player, Miralem Pjanic. The Roma man was all over the park and was hugely influential on the game. He had 3 successful tackles in the game in the midfield, all 3 of which came against Messi. His passing was fantastic, with a 92% pass completion rate and 4 chances created. He also completed 4 of 5 take ons. If it were not for his ability to control Lionel Messi and dictate the play out of Bosnia’s midfield, the Dragons may well have been overrun by the South Americans. He will be hugely influential in the coming games.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THEM
Argentina have done exactly what people would have expected from them. Anything less than a win would have been a huge disappointment but they avoided the slip-up despite a late scare. Argentine fans will be able to rest easy now as Nigeria and Iran should be far less stern opposition than the Dragons from Bosnia.
Speaking of Bosnia, they’ll have to be happy that they walk away from a match with Argentina in front of a huge pro-Argentina crowd having only lost by a goal and, for sections of the match, being the better team. Nigeria and Iran will have harbored ambitions of getting out of the group but if they put in a performance like they did today and are slightly more clinical they will easily advance.
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