Key Selection Dilemmas for Argentina Ahead of World Cup Clash with Nigeria
On the face of things, all should be much more relaxed for the Argentina national team. The Albiceleste join an elite group of nations who managed to win their opening two World Cup matches, making qualification for the second round a foregone conclusion with a game to spare.
Despite booking their place in the last 16, however, narrow wins over Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina have created some concerns amongst coach Alejandro Sabella, his staff and players.
On Wednesday, the South Americans take on Nigeria, on a high after downing Bosnia themselves and looking to confirm their place in the knockout stages.
What changes, if any, can be expected from Sabella as he prepares to face the Super Eagles in Porto Alegre?
Which Formation Is Best?
There was an unusual look to Argentina when they took the field for their World Cup debut against Bosnia.
The side's habitual 4-3-3 formation had been discarded by Sabella in favour of a defensive-minded five-man defence that was, in turn, rejected after just 45 minutes.
With Argentina needing just one point to assure top spot in Group F and the prospect of resting some key players a clear possibility, the coach could be tempted to pack the defence once again, nullifying the Nigeria forwards and cruising through to the next round.
Changes in Defence
Just three goals in two games, including an unfortunate Bosnia own goal, have obviously raised questions over the form of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and the rest of Argentina's attacking superstars.
Those looking a little closer, however, will see that it is the defence which has shown most cause for concern.
With qualification already confirmed, Sabella could take advantage by trying an alternative to Federico Fernandez in the middle of the back line.
Should Inspirational Messi Be Rested?
It is a dilemma, albeit a rather welcome one, for any international coach at a World Cup.
With qualification secured after two games, is it best to rest some key figures? Or is it best to keep up a winning team to continue gaining rhythm and experience?
Sabella finds himself in that very situation ahead of the Nigeria clash. The brilliant Lionel Messi is one player who could be given fewer minutes against the Super Eagles.
The author of two superb World Cup goals so far will be desperate to play every game. However, after a taxing season with Barcelona and several injury problems out of character for the Albiceleste captain, a rest for Messi may be the best option to keep him fresh for the big matches to come.
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