Connect with us

World Cup 2014

3 Key Questions | Argentina vs Belgium: World Cup quarter-final

As we move into the latter stages of the competition, we will look ahead to the enthralling encounters with three key tactical questions that could determine which way this game swings. Phil Baki here has a look at the Argentina vs Switzerland World Cup Quarter-Final clash.


Argentina vs Belgium

WCB2-468x60

With Argentina being pushed to the brink of a penalty shoot-out by Switzerland and Belgium being tested in extra time by the United States, both quarter-finalists have had difficult routes to this stage, but both have earned it. However, despite both teams remaining undefeated in the competition and Lionel Messi having the tournament that everyone expected from him, neither team has assuaged all of the doubts that critics hold against them. Here we’ll address the three main concerns as two teams who were seen as potential contenders in this competition (one more than the other) clash in the last eight.

Is It Possible to Stop Lionel Messi?

Yes. At some point, someone has been able to contain Lionel Messi. His goals in the group stage against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria were all vital. Without Lionel Messi, Argentina would have finished the group with 2 points losing to Nigeria and drawing with Iran. He provided the assist on Angel Di Maria’s late winner against Switzerland. Clearly, any success Belgium will have will come through the Barcelona superstar. The key will be forcing Messi out wide.

In the Round of 16, Messi created 8 chances, with only 1 coming off of a cross (according to WhoScored). Everything he created came from a far more central position, including the pass that set up the winning goal. His goals in the group stage came mainly from cutting into the middle of the field after running down the right. If Belgium are to contain one of the world’s greatest, Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini will need to help crowd the center of the field. They will not be able to go forward with the same freedom with which they attacked the USA, but their work rate will be vital to keeping Lionel Messi quiet.

The issue with this approach is that neither Witsel nor Fellaini are known for their defensive qualities. With a combined 0 tackles, 1 interception and 4 clearances, the midfield duo may need a strong talking-to from manager Marc Wilmots in order to reinforce the fact that their main responsibility should be breaking up Messi’s forward runs and passes. For an example of this, they should look no further than Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler, who frustrated Messi for 118 minutes. If Belgium cannot replicate that, they will struggle.

Where else are Argentina’s goals coming from?

We’ve talked about Messi’s importance to this Argentina side already, but have failed to mention the fact that Argentina are packed to the brim with world-class attackers who have just failed to reproduce their club form for their country. Sergio Aguero is out for the remainder of the World Cup with an injury but even before the injury had struggled in Brazil. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain were next on the list of forwards but as in Aguero’s case, they’ve failed to fire in this World Cup. You can expect Higuain to retain his role as the lone striker up front. Lavezzi has always been preferred on the flanks and despite being substituted in favor of Rodrigo Palacio against the Swiss, the PSG attacker will probably be preferred to the Inter man.

So with Alejandro Sabella unlikely to make many major changes to his lineup, the issue is that the production from Higuain and Lavezzi is simply not enough. Could it be that Argentina are simply thin (relatively speaking) on attacking options. Sabella may reach to his bench with Palacio and Maxi Rodriguez providing some options in the midfield but he will most likely just demand more from Lavezzi and Higuain.

His last option could be to put Messi into a false nine role and play a 4-3-3 with Di Maria and Lavezzi either side of Messi. This would give the wide players a little more license to drift inside and shoot, which could lead to more opportunities. It also keeps Messi toward the middle of the park but will put the onus on the midfield to provide him with service so he does not have to drop too deep in order to receive the ball.

Are the Belgian full-backs still a concern?

Belgium’s match against the United States was perhaps more of a contest due to an unbelievable performance by Tim Howard, but it has to be said that despite all of their dominance, the USA did find some joy. It was down Belgium’s left flank. There were two main reasons for this: first, Vertonghen is not the most comfortable at the left-back position and second, Eden Hazard does not track back. DeAndre Yedlin and DeMarcus Beasley were two of the USA’s best players on the night and Belgium’s inability to track down the flanks was a major factor in that.

The overlap will most likely be profitable for Argentina and with Lavezzi and Pablo Zabaleta flying down Argentina’s right wing, they will most likely be able to exploit space in two-on-one situations against Vertonghen. And do not be shocked if Di Maria and Marcos Rojo also find success down the left against Alderweireld and either Mertens or Mirallas. However, they will need to improve their crossing in order to make this possible advantage count. They only completed 10 of their 52 crosses against the Swiss and did not convert one of them. If they can begin to convert these chances, they will certainly find success as Belgium’s largest weakness is down the flanks.

Along these same lines, Belgium only find marginal success when they push down the wings and their attacking midfielders prefer to drift inside and narrow the attack rather than dribble down toward the endline. This takes away some of the effectiveness of Belgium’s physically imposing strikers. And while some of the attacks did involve Vertonghen pushing forward, he may not be able to while still trying to track the runs of Lavezzi. He does not quite have the closing speed of Yedlin. Belgium also struggled to complete crosses against the United States, but the introduction of Romelu Lukaku from the outset may assist in this area. The battle on the wings could prove absolutely vital to deciding who will make a semifinal appearance.


Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the game and do you see some other important questions that need addressing? Let us know with a comment below. Please share this piece through one of the buttons below, you don’t have to but we’d appreciate it if you do!

Philip Baki

Philip Baki

US Army football enthusiast. Liverpool FC and Dynamo Dresden supporter. Manchester United, Chelsea and MLS hater. Written for Get Football News, Into The Top Corner and a member of the Two Red Gringos Podcast tworedgringos.podbean.com
Philip Baki

100 to Watch

Latest

Indian Football3 hours ago

Three Things We Learned: Chennaiyin 3-0 NorthEast United

Hrishi Anand discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Chennaiyin 3-0 NorthEast United Chennaiyin FC...

Indian Football3 hours ago

Three Things We Learned: Pune City 2-3 Delhi Dynamos

Naven Venkat discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Pune City 2-3 Delhi Dynamos After...

Opinions2 days ago

Analysis: Guide To Formations With Three At The Back

Youssef Amin tactically lays out the merits and demerits of the two commonly used three-man defence formations.  Three at the...

Specials3 days ago

Mr. Huddersfield: Why Andy Booth is a Huddersfield Town Legend

Sivan John takes us down a trip down memory lane as he tells the story of Huddersfield Town legend, Andy...

Talent Radar3 days ago

U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #11: Will Hughes and Donny van de Beek feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week with the best young...

Bengaluru FC4 days ago

Three Things We Learned: Bengaluru FC 2-0 Mumbai City FC

Sami Faizullah discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Bengaluru FC 2-0 Mumbai City FC...

Indian Football4 days ago

Three Things We Learned: Chennaiyin FC 2-3 FC Goa

Hrishi Anand discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Chennaiyin FC 2-3 FC Goa Chennaiyin...

Indian Football5 days ago

Three Things We Learned: NorthEast United 0-0 Jamshedpur

Sauharda Karki discusses three talking points after the Indian Super League game finished NorthEast United 0-0 Jamshedpur The second game...

Talent Radar6 days ago

Veikkausliiga U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Season 2017: Talent Radar

As the Veikkausliiga season has finished, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to recognize the accomplishments...

Indian Football6 days ago

Three Things We Learned: Kerala Blasters 0-0 ATK

Aravind Unnikrishnan discusses three talking points after the Indian Super League opener finished Kerala Blasters 0-0 ATK The inaugural match...

Indian Football7 days ago

Indian Super League 2017-18: Five Indian Players To Watch

Hrishi Anand looks at 5 Indian players to watch in the 2017-18 edition of the Indian Super League. The 4th...

Talent Radar1 week ago

Womens’ Young Player of the Year 2017: Vivianne Miedema

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

South American Young Player of the Year 2017: Gabriel Jesus

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

Oceanian Young Player of the Year 2017: Bill Tuiloma

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

North American Young Player of the Year 2017: Christian Pulisic

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

European Young Player of the Year 2017: Kylian Mbappé

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

Asian Young Player of the Year 2017: Hee Chan Hwang

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Talent Radar1 week ago

African Young Player of the Year 2017: Naby Keita

The third edition of the Young Stars of the Year champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look...

Opinions1 week ago

The revival of Dzeko and Kolarov

Travis Knoppert compares the quality and the recent revival of Dzeko and Kolarov with their cheap transfer fees. After only...

Tactical Analysis1 week ago

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla | Barca’s diamond-esque shape hands them victory

Miles Olusina provides a tactical analysis of the La Liga game that finished Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla Despite being written off by...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 17-18

More on Outside of the Boot