World Cup: Argentina v Belgium: Tips and predictions

By on July 6, 2014

Argentina and Belgium face each other in the third quarter final of this year’s World Cup with both sides reaching this stage after very tough encounters in the round of 16. Argentina have won three of their four encounters with Belgium, scoring 10 goals and conceding four. In the World Cup, they have one win each: Belgium were victors in the group stages of the 1982 edition (1-0) while Argentina won 2-0 in the semi-finals four years later thanks to a Diego Maradona brace. That was their last encounter. Argentina and Belgium are two of four teams to have won all their games at the 2014 World Cup (extra-time included), with Colombia and the Netherlands. All four of Argentina and Belgium’s wins have been by a one goal difference. [viaOpta]

Argentina have been impressive in their own way so far in this tournament with a perfect record in the group stages. They won all three of their group games. However their toughest test as of yet came against Switzerland in the round of 16 game. Both teams created some decent chances but there was no way of separating them in regulation time and the game went into extra time. Approaching the final minutes of ectra time, it was again that man Leo Messi who made the difference. His run through the center after Lichsteiner gave the ball away was the key as he found Angel di Maria unmarked on the right edge of the penalty box and the Real Madrid man hit it first time to hand Argnentina the win. The game against Switzerland did however offer Sabella and Argentina a reality check in how they found it difficult to break down compact defences. They created very few real chances against the Swiss and most of them came through Lionel Messi’s individual efforts. Switzerland were quite content in sitting back and hitting Argentina on the counter and although Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side could not execute the plan quite effectively, Belgium have the players do really hurt Argentina on the counter. Marc Wilmost will pay special attention to this fact and is likely to set his team up to sit back and absorb pressure and hit Argentina on the counter.

Lionel Messi was again the key in Argentina’s last game. Most of the attacks that the Argentine team developed went through the Barcelona forward. The Swiss handled Messi quite well for most part of the game by marking him heavily and not offering him any space at all. Marc Wilmost will try to deploy the same tactics to control Lionel Messi because it is quite clear that if he managed to shut off Messi, and decrease his role in the buildups, Argentina will face problems in attack. Alejandro Sabella has to look at other routes on goal apart from the talismatic Barcelona forward and he will likely try to tinker with his formation a bit in a bid to involve the likes of Lavezzi and Higuain in the buildups and increase the overall effectiveness of the attacks.

Since the start of the 2010 World Cup, Argentina have won eight of their nine games in the competition, their only defeat coming in the quarter finals of the 2010 edition against Germany (0-4). Argentina have won six of their last 19 World Cup games against European sides at the World Cup. It’s the third time in a row that Argentina have reached the quarter finals of the World Cup. However, the Albiceleste have never gone further than the quarter finals since they reached the final in 1990. Argentina haven’t won any of their last four World Cup quarter finals outright, going through on penalties against Yugoslavia in 1990 and being eliminated in 1998 (1-2 v Netherlands), 2006 (on penalties v Germany) and 2010 (0-4 v Germany). Argentina have been victorious (via penalties or winning AET) in six of their seven World Cup games that have gone to extra-time. Argentina have averaged 64.3% of possession in this World Cup, the highest ratio of the tournament. [viaOpta]

Belgium have been shaky in their performances in the World Cup so far. Before the start of the tournament they were tipped to be giant killers and were favorites to cause a few upsets on they way. Marc Wilmots possesses a hugely talented squad and they are probably the favorites for the trophy on paper. However, Belgium have failed to make an impact at the grand stage as barely winning games does not send a very good signal. They have won all of their games so far with three wins out of three in the group stages and the round of 16 victory against the USA, however they have been unconvincing to say the least. They failed to find the goal in regulation time against the USA in their round of 16 clash and although much of that is down to some brilliant saves from the USA #1 Tim Howard, Belgiums finishing wasn’t really top notch either. Belgium can build up slowly and are versatile enough to play on the counter as well. Considering how argentina find it difficult to play against tightly packed defences, Marc Wilmots will likely set hi team out to play on the counter and let the Argentine players come out of their positions before launching an attack.

The biggest threat that Belgium face in this game is the presnec of Lionel Messi. The four time Balon D’Or winner has scored four goals in four games so far in this tournament and three of them have been solo efforts. Plus, he was instrumental in the build up to, and played the final pass for the game winning goal against Siwtzerland. The Swiss marked him very tightly but he still managed to find gaps and unleashed a couple of decent shots. Controlling Lionel Messi will be Marc Wilmots’ biggest task in this game and a defensive strategy might be the best way to go. Keeping narrow spaces between the lines would allow Messi very little time on the bal and that might be the key if Belgium wish to stop him from making an impact.

Belgium have reached the quarter finals of the World Cup for only the second time in their history after 1986. They eventually finished fourth. Belgium’s six goals in this World Cup have all been scored from the 70th minute onwards. Also, four of their six goals have been scored by substitutes. Belgium have only been ahead for 52 minutes in their four World Cup games so far in 2014, less than any of the seven other teams in the quarter finals. Belgium and Argentina have had the most shots in this World Cup (83 and 80 respectively). Marc Wilmots’ men have also had the most attempts on target (32). [viaOpta]

Argentina will be without Marcos Rojo who is supended for this game. Hugo Campagnaro or Jose Basanta will likely start in his place although Basanta is favorite as he is naturally right footed. Sergio Aguero has returned to the training ground and is carrying on some light training however he will definitely not be available for this game. If Argentina progress to the next round, he might be available for the semifinals. Although with the inform Lavezzi fully fit, he would have been favored over Aguero anyways. Higuain will start up front with Lionel Messi starting on the right but he will play more centrally as the game goes on. Di Maria, Mascherano and Gago will start in midfield.

Belgium were boosted by the return of Thomas Vermalen before the start if the quarter finals although he is unlikely to regain his spot in the starting XI owing to the good performance of the defenders that started against USA. Moussa Dembele will be unavailable for this game so Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini will retain their spot in midfield. Wilmots will face a dilemma regarding his center forwards as both Origi and Lukaku are in good form. Lukaku is expected to make a return to the line-up though owing to a great performance against USA after coming on from the bench.

DATE: June 5, 2014

TIME: 5:00 PM BST

VENUE: Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia, Distrito Federal

REFEREE: Nicola Rizzoli

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Argentina (4-2-3-1):- Romero; Basanta, Fernandez, Garay, Zabaleta; Mascherano, Gago; Di Maria, Messi, Lavezzi; Higuain
Belgium (4-2-3-1):- Courtois; Vertonghen, Kompany, van Buyten, Alderweireld; Witsel, Fellaini; Hazard, De Bruyne, Mirallas; Lukaku

LAST MATCH:
Argentina:- 1-0 vs Switzerland
Belgium:- 2-1 vs USA

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Argentina 2-1 Belgium

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