With Germany booking their place in the final, they face either Netherlands or Argentina. We at Outside of the Boot take a look at how the sides have set-up tactically so far.
Messi, di Maria, Aguero, Higuain and more. With an attacking roster as this, Argentina were and are still are considered one of the favorites to take the World Cup home. Sabella’s men have every right, in terms of talent, to instill fear in oppositions even without starting the game and having one of the greatest players in the world in their team is what any coach would want. Prior to the tournament, it was debatable as to how Sabella would use his options, who would he leave on the bench and how he would carry this Argentina side that yearns for the World Cup trophy so badly. Here is how they have set up tactically so far.
Argentina 2-1 Bosnia
Starting line up: Romero, Rojo, Campagnaro (Gago 45’), Fernandez, Garay, Zabaleta, Rodriguez (Higuain 45’), Mascherano, Di Maria, Messi, Aguero (Biglia 86’)
Detailed Tactical Analysis: Argentina 2-1 Bosnia
Formation: Argentina vs. Bosnia
Sabella picked his starting XI for the opener against Bosnia such that they would line up in a 3-5-2 formation. The three defenders comprised of Garay, Fernandez and Campagnaro in front of Romero in goal. The five man midfield included 3 midfielders and 2 wing backs. On the left flank, di Maria was given the green light to bombard ahead with Rojo providing overlapping runs. The right flank saw forward runs from Rodiguez with Zabaleta providing an extra option with his supporting over lapping runs. Mascherano was placed in front of the defense to provide cover. Messi and Aguero were placed up front with Aguero taking up the more advanced role while Messi typically dropped back a bit to collect the ball and get the move going.
Argentina 1-0 Iran
Starting Line Up: Romero; Zabaleta; Fernandez; Garay; Rojo; Mascherano; Gago; Di Maria (Biglia, 90); Messi; Aguero (Lavezzi, 77); Higuain (Palacio, 77)
Detailed Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Iran
Formation: Argentina vs. Iran
Argentina started this game with what is essentially a 4-3-3 formation which morphed as much as it could to an even more attacking formation thanks to Iran’s tactics to happily sit back and call Argentina out. The back four comprised of Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay and Rojo. In front of the defense was cover in terms of Mascherano. Mascherano found di Maria and Gago to the left and right of him in more attack intended roles. Sabella placed Messi in the central hole to extract his creativity and brilliance so that the two strikers, Aguero and Higuain could benefit from this. As Iran were content sitting deep, this called out Zabaleta and Rojo out to roles that resembled wing backs more than full backs in order to support Gago and di Maria respectively and provide an extra option. There were plenty of creative heads but finding the killer ball in the final third is what Argentina lacked. In the end, it was Messi, with individual brilliance that broke Iranian hearts.
Nigeria 2-3 Argentina
Starting Line Up: Romero; Zabaleta; Fernandez; Garay; Rojo; Mascherano; Gago; Di Maria; Messi (Alvarez 63′); Aguero (Lavezzi, 38′); Higuain (Biglia 90′)
With qualification to the next round of the World Cup secured, Sabella fielded the exact same starting XI that faced Iran. Though, unlike the previous game, the same set of players were facing quite something else. While Iran had sat back and invited Argentina forward, Nigeria took the game to the South American giants knowing that even a loss could get them through in the group. It brought the best out of the Argentine defence, which failed to impress, but also saw the attacking phase under extra strain and brought the best out of them. Bosnia & Iran allowed Argentina to attack, Nigeria didn’t, which meant that the excited attacking flair everyone expected pre-tournament was finally on display.
Argentina 1-0 Switzerland
Starting line up: Romero, Federico Fernandez, Zabaleta, Garay, Rojo (Basanta 105’), Gago (Biglia 105’), Mascherano, Di Maria, Higuain, Messi, Lavezzi (Palacio 74’)
Detailed Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Switzerland
Formation: Argentina vs Switzerland
Argentina stuck with the 4-3-3 that was employed in the previous game against Nigeria. The back four and midfield remained unchanged from their previous outing. As for the front three, Higuain was given a more central role while Lavezzi was on the left side of the attack. Messi was played on the other flank but wandered more centrally quite often. Mascherano provided cover for the defense while di Maria was licensed to go down the flank as well as cut in to the central areas. With Messi drifting in from the right hand side, it was up to Zabaleta to carry out his industrious shift of running up and down the right flank tirelessly. The 4-3-3 evolved towards the second half into more of a 4-2-3-1 with Higuain up to, and an interchangeable trio of di Maria, Lavezzi and Messi.
Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Starting Line Up: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Demichelis, Basanta, Mascherano, Biglia, Di Maria, Messi, Lavezzi, Higuain
Detailed Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Formation: Argentina vs. Belgium
The game against Belgium saw Argentina field a starting XI in the 4-2-3-1 formation. The back four comprised of Zabaleta and Basanta out on the right and left flanks respectively. The heart of the defense was occupied by Garay and Demichelis. In front of the defense sat Mascherano and Biglia in the form of cover. The creativity component of this formation was composed of di Maria who started out on the right flank, Messi with a more central role right behind the striker and Lavezzi placed on the left side. Higuain was placed at the tip of the attacking spear. The duo of Mascherano and Biglia were very effective in breaking up Belgian play before it transformed into anything dangerous. With the midfield essentially managed, the game was controlled by Argentina to an extent. Messi, with the typical runs of dropping deep and asking for the ball was an outlet to bring the ball from their half to the attacking half.
Razim Refai is a co-founder and editor of Outside of the Boot.
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