Argentina saw off newcomers Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rio de Janeiro to move to the top of group F. A lacklustre performance by La Albiceleste was spared the blushes by Lionel Messi’s fine second half goal which was the difference at the end. Here are three observations from the game.

  1.        Argentina are not as good as they think they are

    It was pretty ugly in the first half, as Argentina laboured to a 1-0 half time score against the minnows. After a fortuitous opening period which yielded a Sead Kolasinac own goal, Argentina were pretty ordinary with Messi particularly looking out of sorts. The three-man defence held tight, but had quite a few scares from the Europeans. It could be a warning sign for Alejandro Sabella’s team who aren’t quite the force as their line up on paper makes them to be. Captain Messi was anonymous apart from the goal which came after Sabella changed formation, while left-back Marcos Rojo wasn’t inspiring confidence at the back, although he was the Argentine player who helped them take the lead in the first place.

  2.       Minnows show heart

    It was billed as the David v Goliath match, but the Davids in Bosnia-Herzegovina gave a good account of themselves after suffering from the early setback of conceding an own goal. Bosnia played in a packed 4-5-1 setup, and offered plenty of energy off the ball which kept the South Americans at bay. They were measured in the build-ups, but were found wanting in the forward areas due to a lack of bodies. Miralem Pjanic had a good game and pulled strings from the midfield, and he was all over Argentina’s non-existent midfield in the first half. A lot of good portents for the future, and their first goal in World Cup football will give them a lot of confidence going forward.

  3.       4-3-3 the way forward for Argentina

    It took everyone by surprise when Argentina started in a 3-5-2 setup, and their early goal vindicated Sabella’s decision. But as time wore on, Argentina were dominated in midfield while the Bosnian numbers nullified the threat of a deep moving Messi. It was scraped at the first opportunity, as Argentina came out in the second half with two substitutions and reverted to their favoured 4-3-3. As a result, Messi became a lot freer and had space to run at Bosnia. His sublime goal was a result of his excellent link-up with Gonzalo Higuain, one of the half time subs, and his quick feet. The 4-3-3 offers space and time to Messi to influence things, and that should be Argentina’s plan for the rest of the tournament.

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