Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina: 6 Things We Learned
Argentina defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 in their first World Cup match at the legendary Maracana stadium on Sunday.
A Lionel Messi wonder-strike lit up an otherwise fairly dour affair in which Alejandro Sabella's side were troubled by an excellent Bosnia-Herzegovina outfit.
It was the start the Albiceleste had been hoping for, putting them in a good position to win their group and launch themselves into the knockout stages with confidence and momentum.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, meanwhile, will still be hopeful of gaining the points they need against Iran and Nigeria to go through as well.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Sabella Can Be Flexible...
After settling on a consistent 4-3-3 formation for the majority of the qualifiers, Alejandro Sabella surprisingly mixed things up for Argentina's first group game at the World Cup, opting to start with a 5-3-2 instead.
The decision may have been tactical, but more likely it was due to injury concerns.
Gonzalo Higuain is only just recovering from an ankle injury, while his most like-for-like replacement, Rodrigo Palacio, also picked up an ankle knock against Trinidad and Tobago.
Ezequiel Lavezzi had not shown good enough goalscoring form in the warm-up matches, so the Argentine coach probably decided his best option was to play with one less striker and give his side extra width.
But 4-3-3 Still Works Best
Even though Argentina led 1-0 at halftime, Sabella basically admitted at the break that he had started with the wrong formation by reverting to his tried-and-true methods.
The 5-3-2 left the Albiceleste outnumbered in midfield, with Messi forced to drop deep and Sergio Aguero isolated up front.
The 4-3-3 reappeared in the second term, with Hugo Campagnaro replaced by forward Higuain and the ineffective Maxi Rodriguez swapped with Fernando Gago.
Argentina were a vastly better side from that point on and appeared far more comfortable in possession and more threatening in attack.
The extra space afforded Messi allowed him to score his spectacular goal.
Bosnia-Herzegovina Are a Force
The European side were arguably the best team on the pitch in the first half and continued to battle in the second term as Argentina hit their straps.
Most of the Bosnian players on the pitch can hold their heads high, and the side can still be confident of their chances of making the round of 16.
Zvjezdan Misimovic was particularly impressive in conducting his side's play in midfield, while Roma star Miralem Pjanic showed his tremendous ability in bursts.
Encouragingly, none of the Bosnian players on the pitch appeared intimidated by their much-fancied opposition.
Own Goals Having a Major Say So Far
Neymar, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Karim Benzema have scored two goals each in the tournament so far, but they trail "Own Goals" as the World Cup's top scorer.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's own goal in the third minute, scored by the unfortunate Sead Kolasinac, was the third such occurrence in just 11 games.
There have already been more own goals scored in Brazil than there were in the whole of South Africa 2010.
Messi Does Get Nervous...
Renowned for his ability to keep a calm disposition no matter how great the occasion, Lionel Messi actually appeared nervous at the start of the encounter in the Maracana.
The Argentine captain attempted to turn and run at the Bosnian defence on four occasions in the first 16 minutes from deep positions, and each time he was robbed of the football by his opponents.
He also failed to show his lack of ruthlessness when receiving the ball in the box on a couple of occasions and sent several passes off target.
Messi did contribute the cross from a free kick which led to the opening goal, but from open play he was less than impressive.
Perhaps it was a case of trying to do too much, but before his goal the No. 10 had had a poor game overall.
The wonderful strike to put Argentina up 2-0 also acted as a pressure-relief valve, and Messi's performance improved markedly after that.
But He Is Capable of Dominating This World Cup
Much of the talk in the lead-up to Argentina's opener surrounded Messi and whether he would consolidate his legacy with a starring role in this World Cup.
As mentioned, for much of the first half and part of the second, it looked like the Argentine captain would once again be a disappointment on the game's biggest stage.
His delightful run and finish could prove the catalyst for a memorable few weeks, however, and Argentina fans will certainly be hoping to see more of the same from their main man.
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