Although the exciting Argentina attack did not have the dominant showing many were expecting from their opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina, they were able to do enough to help the squad earn a much-needed 2-1 win to start the 2014 World Cup.
Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria make up a fantastic core, but Lionel Messi is the star of the show, coming in with giant expectations. This led to some disappointment early on before the superstar came through with an impressive goal in the 65th minute.
As a result, there were plenty of diverse thoughts throughout the match from those watching along.
It did not take long for Argentina to get onto the scoresheet as they were able to capitalize on a mistake by Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac:
GOAL, Argentina! It's an own goal from Kolasinac, but Messi & Co. won't care. Perfect start for Argentina. #ARGvsBIH— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2014
Paul Carr of ESPN notes that this was a record-setting mark:
Sead Kolasinac has scored the fastest own goal in #WorldCup history (3').— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 15, 2014
The problem is that this represented the majority of the action from the first half as neither side were able to get much going in the final third. Argentina ended up going into intermission with just a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Messi was relatively disappointing in the first half as the entire world was hoping to see some magic. He struggled to even get touches, and when he did, he could not make anything happen.
ESPN Stats & Info provided a look at his turnover rate close to the net:
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News joked about the forward's struggles early on:
Right now he's Lionel Messy. The great Messi keeps giving the ball away.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) June 15, 2014
At the same time, Bosnia-Herzegovina did their part keeping him marked at all times, via Sam Kelly of Club Metro World Cup:
#BiH have done a very good job of pressuring Messi (who already seems a bit nervy anyway) & of isolating Agüero so far.— Sam Kelly (@HEGS_com) June 15, 2014
On the other hand, it seemed difficult for the Barcelona man to do much based on the relatively conservative formation by Argentina. Brian Phillips of Grantland questioned the coaching staff's ability to utilize Messi:
Based on how they use Messi, I assume all Argentina managers, when given hats as gifts, exclaim "finally, a way to keep my stomach warm!"— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) June 15, 2014
Either way, Messi did not make an impact in the first half, leaving question marks heading into the second half. Aguero was not much better as he could not take advantage of the few chances he had.
This initially kept up as the star was passive and uncoordinated with his teammates, as noted by Jeff Borzelo of CBS Sports and Bleacher Report's Dan Levy:
I've never seen Messi pass this much inside the opposing 18-yard box.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) June 15, 2014
I think Aguero is awesome. But he and Messi aren't linking up as well as Argentina hoped.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) June 15, 2014
However, all of this changed in an instant when he scored his first goal of the tournament on an incredible run in which he made nearly the entire defense look silly:
Sensational goal from Lionel Messi. http://t.co/SBXmuVhEw8— Football Vines (@FootballVines) June 15, 2014
Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph provided his analysis of the play:
What a goal from Messi at Maracana. Balance, touch, 1-2 with Higuain, finish. Pure genius. #arg fans in full Ole Messi voice— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) June 15, 2014
Ray Hudson of beIN Sport was a bit more excited:
Golazzzzo!!!!!! LIKE A BIG HUNGRY WEREWOLF THATS BEEN STARVED FOR A MONTH! HE DRAWS BLOOD!— Ray Hudson (@RayHudson) June 15, 2014
Even NBA star Kobe Bryant got in on the action:
LEO Genio— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) June 15, 2014
Although Bosnia were able to get one score back to make it 2-1 toward the end of the match, Argentina were able to hold on for the narrow victory.
From start to finish, this was not the best overall performance from the brilliant Argentine attack. Aguero made very little impact, and Messi was limited to just one big play. However, there is a lot of pressure on this group to succeed, and they did just enough to get the necessary three points.
Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sport recognized the emotional impact of Messi's score:
You could see the weight that Messi took off from his shoulders and his heart— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) June 15, 2014
Things should get easier in the next match when they take on Iran, but it will be important for this attack to step up. Aguero needs to do his part, as well as Higuain and Di Maria.
Even if the South American squad makes it through this group, they will not be going far in this tournament unless they improve.
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