Why Federico Fernandez Is Under Most Pressure for Argentina After Win vs. Bosnia

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago's Sheldon Bateau, left, and Argentina's Federico Fernandez, right, vie for the ball during their international friendly soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

Argentina's World Cup debut against Bosnia-Herzegovina was not the display of frenetic attacking football we have come to expect from the Albiceleste. A 2-1 win against a side fiercely disputing every ball of their first game in the international football tournament, however, was far from a disaster. 

Coach Alejandro Sabella, per Four Four Two, probably judged the game fairly in his conference after the final whistle. 

"On balance I would give it (Argentina's display) a six (out of 10)," the trainer admitted.

"We need to improve and part of that is in my hands - it is up to me."

There is some truth in what the ex-Sheffield United player and Copa Libertadores coach says. A curious decision to dispense with the Seleccion's tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 setup in favour of a far more negative 5-3-2 almost had dire consequences. 

The side were hamstrung going forward, despite the early present of an own goal, and the extra man at the back did not appear either to give much stability to a fragile defence. Reverting back to the attacking trident at half time finally yielded the desired results, and although Argentina did not run away with the game, it is tough to begrudge them victory. 

But after a soft goal conceded towards the end of the game, Napoli central defender Federico Fernandez stands out the most in a defensive unit under pressure to perform. 

Fernandez is one of several players in the Albiceleste squad to have played under Sabella in the coach's excellent Estudiantes side of 2009 and 2010. Defensive strength and efficiency in possession was the key in that squad, who lifted the Libertadores in 2009 and followed that success up with an Apertura title the following year. 

But in international colours, the centre-back's performances have rarely risen above the level of acceptable. In the Brazil friendly of 2012 and again on Sunday, he showed his weaknesses defending against forwards who could manoeuvre behind him. 

After a decent match between the posts, goalkeeper Sergio Romero was somewhat unfairly targeted for his complicity in Vedad Ibisevic's smart finish. But look beyond the Monaco man's open legs. It is Fernandez that loses his marker in the build-up, leaving Romero exposed for the one-on-one in a situation where a goal is almost expected. 

His performance mirrored that of Ezequiel Garay in the eyes of Bleacher Report's Alex Livie. The Napoli player was awarded a mediocre five out of 10 for the first half, rising to six in the second despite that mishap. But with players like Martin Demichelis, Jose Basanta and Hugo Campagnaro also keen for a starting place, such errors cannot be tolerated on a regular basis. 

Fernandez's Achilles' heel, or back as the case may be, is somewhat alleviated by having a defender of Garay's calibre beside him. The Benfica star acts as a type of sweeper, staying further back in the line and attempting to clean up any activity that threatens to break through the defence. But in the most important competition of a footballer's career, Fernandez must step up and prove he can work on this weakness before it becomes costly for the Argentina national team. 

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