This could well be Messi’s World Cup, and the draw was kind to him when Argentina drew tournament debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina along with Nigeria and Iran. Taking three wins on their way to topping the group is well within their reach, and is the least that will be expected of Alejandro Sabella’s men if they are to go on and have a realistic chance of winning the tournament.
Bosnia will also sense they have a chance of qualifying in what will be their first World Cup as an independent nation; Argentina are amongst the favourites but neither Iran or Nigeria have pulled up any tress on the international stage of late and will be considered as teams who Safet Susic’s attacking side can beat; though the South American country are the best bet to top the group, any of the other three could take second spot and so Group F makes for an interesting one.
In spite of an embarrassment of riches up front, Argentina’s defence isn’t as star-studded and Susic will be keen to exploit that with his usual attacking style. However he will have to be mindful of the quality Argentina pose; Lionel Messi is ready to make his name here, while the likes of Higuain and Aguero are deadly partners and Lavezzi and di Maria offer pace out wide. Bosnia don’t have any players with World Cup experience and their defence is spread across mid-ranking European sides, so will have to make up for their lack of quality and prior knowledge with disciplined defending in the face of what is arguably the World Cup’s deadliest frontline.
Argentina will look to establish themselves early on, both to make a mark on the World Cup and subdue any early energy Bosnia have and force them to defend. Messi and Co. will aim to carve them open at every opportunity to resist the chances of an upset. Bosnia will have to bide their time and defend well, but will aim to get the ball forward to their two first choice forwards and get make sure that they take their chances..
A solid 4-4-2 may no longer be conventional, but it gives Bosnia a solid foundation for defence and allows them to get their key players in the most advanced areas, with Pjanic and Misimovic in behind Ibisevic and Man City striker Dzeko. Susic simply plays to outscore his opponents, but that may be difficult when the strikers you’re trying to outscore are Messi, Aguero and Higuain, and so may have to play more on the break. Argentina’s 4-3-3 accommodates all three star strikers in the side and will give them a dangerous attacking force that Bosnia will find difficult to deal with.
Both sides key men are their attacking components; Susic has remained loyal to the partnership of Ibisevic and Dzeko and played them consistently throughout qualification, reaping the rewards as they scored 18 of the sides 30 goals on their way to topping the group. Both have consistently found double figures in recent seasons and know how to finish, and so Argentina will have to be mindful. Supporting them are the next two top scorers from the qualifying group, Misimovic and Pjanic, who will be vital to creating opportunities for the front two and disrupting a less than convincing Argentina defence.
Lionel Messi is in the form of his life after being named captain, and is beginning to translate his performances in the red and blue of Barcelona to the white and blue of Argentina. At 26 he’s in his prime and it all feels as if it’s falling into place for the man regarded as the best in the world by many. His partnership with Sergio Aguero is a deadly proposition and, after a club season blighted by injury, the Manchester City striker will look to make amends here and unleash his talent on the world stage.
Angel di Maria will also be pivotal to Argentina; a seemingly tireless runner with bags of pace and skill, his slightly more tucked in role for his country allows him to slice teams down the middle and either unleash a fierce shot or lay the ball off to any one of a number of world class strikers. With Bosnia’s gameplan based so much on attack, the Real Madrid man will be crucial to Argentina on the break.
Susic won’t sacrifice his desired style; Bosnia are at their first World Cup, and will want to give their fans something to shout about. They probably expect to be rolled over by Argentina regardless, so will see attacking as their best option to try and stun one of the favourites with an early goal. They have the firepower and, the more their attack sees of the ball, the less pressure their defence will come under.
Boasting top quality strikers all in good form, it is more a case of when rather than if as to when Argentina will score. Messi will lead from the front but won’t be alone, and Bosnia are likely to get caught by the star-studded strikeforce of their South American opposition. They won’t go down without a fight, but will ultimately find the game a step too far. However the test should prepare them for the next two games against Iran and Nigeria, both of which provide more realistic chances of claiming victory.
Argentina still have to be mindful, and Sabella knows defensively discipline is key when faced with two strikers who know how to finish and have proved their form on the international stage. Providing the defence remain tight and shut out the Bosnians early on, it should be a routine victory for Argentina if they are serious about their opes of lifting the World Cup on the 13th of July.
My Prediction: Argentina 4-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina
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