Argentina versus Bosnia & Herzegovina, the two favourites to qualify from Group F, this match was always going to exciting. We are sorry to say, it was anything but exciting. Eventually, Argentina took the 3 points in a very unconvincing performance by the South American giants.
The first half started in World Cup 2014 fashion, when Argentina found themselves ahead 3 minutes into the game, after Lionel Messi’s free kick was put into the goal by Bosnia and Schalke 04’s Sead Kolasinac, who in his favour could do very little about it. At this point it seemed Argentina would breeze through the half, but instead it was Bosnia’s hard working team that had the better game and ended the half on the front foot, although they were behind in terms of goals. They laboured to find an equalizer; Besic and Pjanic ran havoc and controlled the midfield and it was Bosnia who did have the major chances of the half. Sergio Romero was called into action plenty of times and he rose to the occasion perfectly, denying Dzeko a scoring opportunity and making a plunging save for Lulic’s effort. If Argentina was still in the lead at halftime, it was because Romero has had a good game.
From Argentina’s point of view, Messi has been a pleasure to watch whenever he had the ball, although Bosnia’s tactic of crowding him out was working very well. Aguero and Di Maria were not given any chances to show their talent and a much disciplined defence of Bosnia had major of the answers to Argentina’s not so threatening questions. Javier Mascherano and Co. were overrun by BIH’s midfield and seemed to fade away. Javier Mascherano didn’t do as well, being dispossessed and misplaying passes throughout, although it isn’t a surprise as he found himself in an unfamiliar midfield role, having played a centre back for major parts of the season this year with Barcelona. If Aguero has been isolated up front, the same can be said about Edin Dzeko who tried his level best to get into the game, but if we see more of the same, expect Bosnia to level up. At half-time, it was Argentina who went in with a slender lead, but the scoreline was extremely flattering for their performance.
Starting the match with a back 5, Argentina moved to a 4-3-3 as the second half started, with Alex Sabella making his intent clear by bringing Gonzalo Higuain on at half-time. The change in formation was very smart and evident. The introduction of Fernando Gago gave Argentina the much needed stability in midfield and as Bosnia started commiting more bodies forward it was time for Lionel Messi to finally shine on this big stage. Tick the final box. In an exchange of passes between Fernando Gago, just a few days short of 8 years or 623 minutes of World Cup football since he got his first World Cup goal, Lionel Messi gave, got and scored to put his team 2-0 up and in a considerably comfortable position. The goal was sublime as the Argentine captain very smartly got away from his shadow Besic, and the precision was perfect, Messi’s shot from just outside the box hit the post and went in. It was the 36th goal of the competition and in a tournament where most of the big names had scored, Messi’s name would resonate the loudest. Bosnia now seemed lost and as they committed more bodies forward leaving a very thin backline, Argentina became more fluent and effervescent in their play. The crowd sang Messi’s name and the atmosphere was understandably lifted while Bosnia laboured and tried their level best to get back into the game.
The game was not over yet as Bosnia finally got their reward six minutes before time as substitute Ibisevic scored Bosnia & Herzegovina’s first ever World Cup goal. It would be an understatement to say they deserved the goal, they merited it based solely on their first half performance. Argentina saw the game off with very little composure, but given their second half performance, they deserved this hard fought victory. The only reason this night will be remembered is because Lionel Messi got his coveted World Cup goal, on a night, Argentina were not their best. That being said, Safet Susic’s team can hold their heads up high and must build on this very good performance.
FIFA’s Man of The Match – Lionel Messi. Arguably, the best in the world, it was easy to see why Lionel Messi was awarded Man Of The Match. A very well taken goal, which was eventually the winner and also he provided the free kick which led to the first goal, Messi was the decisive factor in the victory.
Our Man of The Match – Fernando Gago. While Messi may have taken plaudits with the goal, it was the half time introduction of Fernando Gago which influenced the game heavily. He provided the much needed midfield stability and the string of passes from defence to offence. At a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina were running rampant, it was this man’s contribution which changed that. A very good performance indeed, and that is why he wins our Man of The Match award.
Our Flop of The Match- Sergio Aguero. On a night where a lot was expected of Argentina, their striker failed to provide the much needed potency in attack and disappeared as the game progressed. Agreed that he was left isolated for major parts of the game, he did not do enough to make himself involved, and was very wasteful when chances came to him. With reports that Higuain not starting the game due to lack of fitness, we can surely see a fully fit Higuain taking the Manchester City talisman’s place.