Argentina's Key Weapon and Achilles' Heel at 2014 World Cup
On Sunday, Argentina kick off their World Cup Group F campaign. Bosnia-Herzegovina will be the Albiceleste's first opponents in Brazil, an opponent that the formbook implies will pose few problems for the men directed by Alejandro Sabella.
Indeed, there is a strong feeling that the South Americans can go far in the tournament, possibly even all the way to the Maracana and a third World Cup title.
There is no doubt that Argentina have a squad packed with talent, but there are also weaknesses inside the group that should not be ignored. A dynamic attacking line-up typified by the pace and explosive ability of Angel Di Maria is their most dangerous weapon in Brazil.
An unconvincing defence, meanwhile, typified by the uncertain figure of Sergio Romero between the posts, could well prove to be the weakest link for the World Cup heavyweights.
Key Weapon: Angel Di Maria
It may be a surprise not to see Lionel Messi identified as the key to Argentina's success. The Barcelona wizard and Albiceleste captain will of course be vital to the team's chances; as we saw during the qualifying competition, Messi's 10 goals and countless assists drove Argentina to first place.
But in coach Sabella's team-orientated, counterdriven tactics, the most important player in the scheme may lie just a little further back up the pitch.
Di Maria demonstrated to anyone who still doubted his talents that he was the real deal with a brilliant display for Real Madrid in the Champions League final. While marquee names Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale had indifferent matches, the Rosario native was an incessant attacking threat, stretching Atletico down the left and opening up the game.
His brilliant dribble and assist for Bale in extra time put Madrid into the lead for the first time in the game, making La Decima a real possibility. Expect Di Maria to show much of the same when he takes the field for Argentina, breaking from deep and hurting opposition defences before bringing his attacking colleagues into play.
Achilles' Heel: Sergio Romero
To be fair, the tag of Achilles' heel is rather unfair on either Sergio Romero or the Argentine defensive unit. The latter in particular has improved greatly over the last three years, benefitting from stable management and a consistency in selection policy that have not always been hallmarks of the nation's coaches.
With Romero, on the other hand, the Misiones native and Monaco keeper is more of an unknown quantity than an outright weakness for the side in Brazil. At his best, he can be a very decent shot-stopper indeed; and a current record of three consecutive international clean sheets shows he is dependable.
His weaknesses, however, have been exacerbated arguably by a lack of first-team football over the last four years. Romero still fails to give great security when coming out to claim crosses, preferring to punch and often hesitating to venture off his line.
Many critics have questioned the exclusion of Malaga's Willy Caballero from the Argentina setup. But that is irrelevant now. Romero is the man for Sabella, and Albiceleste fans will have to hope that the best version of Chiquito shows up in Brazil and proves the doubters wrong.