Argentina vs. Trinidad and Tobago: 6 Things We Learned
Argentina's friendly match against Trinidad and Tobago was a kind test for the South Americans. The fixture served more as an excuse for the home fans to cheer their idols than a real challenge prior to the World Cup, as Rodrigo Palacio, Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez struck in a 3-0 victory.
Nonetheless, just days away from the start of Brazil 2014, every game is important for the men directed by coach Alejandro Sabella.
With several new faces popping up in a rotated Albiceleste line-up, there were more than a few lessons to take home for one of the favourites to clinch the trophy in July.
The Albiceleste Will Not Lack World Cup Support
Wednesday's run-out was to all intents and purposes a rather meaningless warm-up. But somebody must have forgotten to tell the thousands of Argentina fans who packed the Monumental for a glimpse of Lionel Messi and the rest of the Albiceleste stars.
The atmosphere in Buenos Aires was electric, and more of the same will come in Brazil. According to The Mirror's Andy Lines, at least 11,000 Argentinians purchased tickets to their opening clash against Bosnia and Herzegovina; with many thousands more set to make the trip across the border to see the World Cup with or without tickets.
The Counter Remains Their Best Weapon
With a lion's share of the possession on the night, Argentina proved that they are capable of dictating the flow of the game. But when going forward, Alejandro Sabella's likely to do so with great pace.
While the game was still deadlocked in the first half, some of the side's best openings came while breaking from deep. Similar to Real Madrid, Argentina work best in full flight, countering against a stretched opponent and taking advantage of gaps in the back line.
Properly executed, it could prove to be a lethal strategy in Brazil.
No Samson Effect for Demichelis?
Martin Demichelis was clearly delighted to make the Argentina World Cup squad against all expectations. So much so that he fulfilled a promise to cut his hair, per the Daily Mail, if he received the call, shearing his distinctive pony tail to a sensible crew cut.
The Manchester City man did not look too affected by the change, defending diligently in the first half and making one crucial intervention. But he failed to reappear for the second period. Could the cut have weakened him like the biblical figure?
Second-String Forwards Are Worthy Deputies
There was some surprise before kick-off when Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero were not included in the starting line-up. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio were given the nod by Coach Sabella, who sought to rotate his forward stars ahead of the big tournament.
The pair gave Sabella little to worry about. Palacio scored Argentina's opening goal in the last minute of the first half, nodding home from close range. The Inter star also supplied the third with a smart drag back, converted by fellow reserve Maxi Rodriguez to put the game beyond doubt.
But Finishing Must Improve
A three-goal victory does not exactly imply a close game. But if not for some wayward finishing by the Argentina side, the final result could have been very humiliating indeed for Trinidad and Tobago.
The Albiceleste took a total of 17 shots on goal, but only five were on target despite the obvious deficiencies of the Caribbean side's defence. Lavezzi was guilty on more than one occasion, as was Lionel Messi: La Pulga was left shaking his head in front of goal after somehow steering a cross wide from El Pocho.
Argentina Must Take Care of Target Messi
A taste of the kind of treatment Lionel Messi may be subjected to in Brazil was on display this evening. La Pulga took some big hits, with two Trinidad players booked for chopping him down in the first half alone.
When playing teams clearly not on the same level as Argentina, taking the little genius out of the game becomes a genuine strategy. Coach Sabella and the rest of the team must ensure he is not left to fight the big hits alone, keeping the talisman fit throughout the World Cup.
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