3 Things Argentina Must Change Following Win Against Nigeria
A thrilling 3-2 win over Nigeria sealed Argentina's place at the summit of Group F on Wednesday, in turn guaranteeing Alejandro Sabella's men a kind-looking run to at least the World Cup semi-finals in Brazil.
Lionel Messi, in particular, was devastating for the Seleccion, scoring twice to lead his side to victory.
Despite winning all three games so far, however, this is not the time for the coach to become complacent. There is still work to be done on this Albiceleste team, even if the most recent performance constituted a wholesale improvement over what had been seen against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran.
From a rickety back line to a tendency to leave Messi to take on the world alone, these are the things Sabella must drill into his side if they are to continue their upward course in the 2014 World Cup.
At times, it is difficult to draw too many negative conclusions from a win. After finishing Group F with a perfect record of three victories and nine points, a feat matched only by the Netherlands and Colombia so far, confidence should be high in the Argentina camp.
Ahmed Musa's ease in scything through the middle of the defence, however, cannot be ignored.
The Nigeria star swooped at the start of both the first and second halves to level for his nation, while the Albiceleste defence was left shell-shocked. Defenders such as Pablo Zabaleta and Federico Fernandez have shown several times that a quick striker can do damage behind them, and this must be remedied before the knockout stage.
Perhaps Musa's double owed more to a lack of concentration following a restart on the part of the Argentina team, rather than any lack of structure or talent amongst the back four.
It is significant that both goals occurred at the start of play, shortly after Argentina had taken the lead.
If that is the case, Sabella should be tearing into his players for such elementary errors. Against Nigeria, those slips can be compensated by one or more goals. Against Brazil, Germany or the Netherlands—to name just a few—fate may not be so accommodating.
Reliance on Messi
Statistics can be misleading at times. However, in the case of Argentina's current World Cup campaign, one piece of data stands out amongst all others.
The Albiceleste's six goals so far have all come mostly through the inspiration of Messi.
On top of smashing four goals during the group stage, La Pulga also provided the corners that yielded an own goal against Bosnia and Marcos Rojo's improvised effort to finally see off Nigeria.
Every time the Barcelona star gets the ball, there is a palpable excitement over what he will do next.
However, Argentina are much more than the diminutive No. 10.
World-class players such as Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria must show they are up to the challenge, and that Messi is not alone in his quest to bring the nation a third World Cup title.
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