Argentina go into their remaining World Cup group sport towards Poland on Tuesday with out figuring out which script their marketing campaign is following. The hope is that it goes the identical as Italia ’90, after they recovered from a shock first sport defeat to Cameroon and made all of it the best way to the ultimate. The concern is that it might observe South Korea/Japan 2002, after they arrived among the many favourites, had loads of possession however created little, and after a win (over Nigeria) and a loss (to England), they drew 1-1 with Sweden and didn’t make it out of the group.
Many will see ominous similarities with 2002. Thus far, Argentina have didn’t stay as much as their billing as one of many strongest candidates to take dwelling the trophy. Individuals have questioned how this staff managed to come back in to the event on a 36-game unbeaten run, overcoming Brazil, thrashing Italy at Wembley. What has occurred to Lionel Messi and firm? There would appear to be two solutions.
Firstly, opponents have studied them in depth, understanding how one can neutralise their strengths. Coach Lionel Scaloni’s staff has been primarily based round a primary concept: a passing midfield which patiently builds rhythm, in search of to put on down the opposition, and waits for the appropriate second to show possession into penetration.
Saudi Arabia got here up with a daring answer: to press the area in midfield utilizing a excessive defensive position. It was a dangerous technique and solely the narrowest of offsides stopped Argentina increase an unassailable first-half lead, however the bravery of the Saudis was rewarded with a shock 2-1 comeback win. They denied Argentina the time and area to play their regular sport, and Argentina by no means discovered an answer.
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On Saturday, Gerardo Martino’s Mexico tried one thing way more conservative: defending with a block of three centre-backs protected by one other trio of central midfielders. It was not simple on the attention — Mexico’s thrilling wingers of 4 years in the past at the moment are a distant reminiscence — however it was irritating and virtually labored, earlier than Messi struck and Argentina completed 2-0 victors.
All of that is a part of the sport however, and right here is the opposite a part of the reason, Argentina have additionally not been at their greatest.
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The alarm bells began ringing shortly earlier than the competitors when midfielder Giovani Lo Celso pulled out injured. Scaloni confessed that he didn’t have a like-for-like alternative and Lo Celso was a key a part of Argentina’s ball-playing midfield trio. Over the course of the lengthy unbeaten run, Leandro Paredes had been enjoying the primary ball ahead with high quality, Rodrigo De Paul had been supplying thrust, and Lo Celso, together with his delicate little passes, had been bringing Messi into the sport near the opposing aim. Good groups are fabricated from little partnerships and the hyperlink between Messi and Lo Celso was an vital a part of the aspect. Alejandro Gomez stepped in for the primary sport towards the Saudis and Alexis Mac Allister for the assembly with Mexico; neither was a lot of successful, though there are mitigating circumstances.
Scaloni made 5 modifications for the match towards Mexico, one in all which was the enforced alternative of Paredes within the midfield anchor position. The 28-year-old has been struggling for health and was nowhere close to his greatest towards the Saudis, however the inclusion of Guido Rodriguez to take his place made little sense.
Rodriguez is a 6-foot-2 defensive midfielder. He may be an excellent possibility to come back on and maintain the fort when the staff are defending a lead, however he was all fallacious for the Mexico sport. The onus was on Argentina to create, to maneuver the ball, to construct up a head of steam. Rhythm comes from the again and it’s exhausting for the gamers additional ahead to create something if everyone seems to be marked. The midfield anchorman must advance, commit opponents and create the area for a constructive ahead move. This isn’t the sport of Rodriguez and, as the sport wore on, it was clear that Messi was turning into more and more annoyed.
Argentina regarded like a staff caught between two ideas. Was Rodriguez included as a result of Scaloni was involved about defending the defence? However whereas he was there, it was exhausting for Argentina to be themselves. After which Rodriguez gave strategy to Enzo Fernandez.
A lot has been fabricated from the 2 moments of inspiration that received the sport — the Messi shot from exterior the world and the attractive curled end from Fernandez late within the sport. However there’s something else. Messi scored after receiving a intelligent move from Angel Di Maria on the appropriate wing; Di Maria acquired the ball from Enzo Fernandez. Out of the blue, with Fernandez on the sphere, Argentina had a circuit of passing happening within the opposing half.
It’s the golden rule of soccer: the staff makes the celebs. Messi and firm had not out of the blue turn out to be dangerous gamers when Argentina had been struggling to interrupt down Mexico. The staff had not been transferring the ball properly sufficient to offer them area to do their factor — till Fernandez got here on that’s. Now he has certainly received a spot within the beginning XI towards Poland.