World Cup Group F: Argentina v Iran

By on June 20, 2014

Argentina will face Iran in their second game of the World Cup group stages as Sabella’s men try to book their place in the knockout round with all three points,  but it may not be as easy as it seems with Iran looking set to frustrate the Argentine attack.

Argentina were off to a good start to this year’s campaign in Brazil after their win against Bosnia and Herzegovnia in the opening game. However, despite their victory, their performance left much to demand for and fans and players alike will feel that they need to do much better if they are to hope for a World Cup title. Sabella started the game with a rather experimental 5-3-2 formation with three central defenders and both Leo Messi and Sergio Aguero up front. Argentina took the lead in the opening minute of the game thanks to an own goal from a Lionel Messi freekick. However, depsite going ahead, they failed to make an impact on the game and Messi, who had the hope of the entire nation pinned on his shoulders failed to really showcase his talents in the 1st half. It was clear that they 5-3-2 was not working out for them and consequently Sabella made changes at half time bringing on Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Hguain at half time and shifting back to the more favorable 4-3-3. The change in formation was evident as the Argentines started getting a grip on the game albeit a weak one. Lionel Messi doubled the lead through a wonderful goal where he picked up the ball near the half way line and went on one of his trademark runs. However, the Argentine defense was a constant source of worry for Sabella and the fans as Bosnia and Herzegovnia were causing a lot of problems in the final third and one would argue that a stronger attack could really cause them a lot of damage if Sabella fails to figure out his best defensive strategy. Bosnia got one goal back which made for an interesting end to the game but Argentina managed to hold on to the lead earning them all three points.

With a win in the opening game, and Iran and Nigeria fighting out a draw in their previous game, Argentina are in pole position to qualify for the knockout round with a second successive win. Furthermore, if they manage to get all three points from this one, they will be favorites to win the group which means facing the runner-up of group E in the knockout round.

One thing Sabella must figure out before the game is whether to go with Maxi Rodriguez or Fernando gago in midfield. Maxi Rodriguez started the previous game but failed to make and impact. His main strength is his creative prowess. Fernando Gago on the other hand came of the bench in the last game, in place of Rodriguez, and made quite an impact on the game. He is a much more defensive player and with some weak links in defence, Sabella might be tempted to start him in midfield alongside Mascherano to add cover to his defenders.

Iran’s opening game went muhc according to expectations. They were up against Nigeria in that game and with both teams lacking any creativity in their squad, they two fought out a rather dull 0-0 draw. Carlos Quieroz and his squad were heavily criticized by the media for that performance but the 61 year old took the blame off his players and made a real point in how none of his players play in the major leagues of Europe unlike th eother players in the tournament. Furthermore, he stated how the 0-0 draw earned them a valuable point in their hopes for a place in the knockout rounds and that the fans in Iran will love the result. The best thing they could do was avoid a loss and they did just that in the game against Nigeria. Furthermore, even though they had no creativity in their midfield, their defensive display was somewhat solid and set out to frustrate the oppositions attack. If Queiroz’s men can hold a strong and solid backline in this game as well then the sky is the limit for them, however kepping the likes of Messi, Aguero, Higuain and di Maria seems very unlikely.

Iran probably didn’t have very high hopes regarding qualification to the knockout round. Their opening game ended in a much expected draw which earned them a point. Carlos Queiroz will be well aware that his side don’t stand a chance of getting all three points against the Argentine but his side can frustrate them and make things difficult for Messi and co which might earn them a draw. However, the chances of them keeping a cleansheet for an entire 90 minutes are very low.

Argentina will start with the same 4-3-3 formation that they are much used to with Mascherano, di Maria and most probably Gago in midfield. Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero are confirmed starters in front however the third spot is somewhat of an open battle between Lavezzi and Higuain. Higuain came on from the bench in the first game and might be preferred for this one. However, if the manager decides to go with pace, Lavezzi might be the preferred starter. Garay and Federico will start in defence.

Iran will most likely keep the same starting XI that earned them a draw against Nigeria and Carlos Quieroz will direct his team to be even more defensive in this game.

DATE: June 21, 2014

TIME: 5:00 PM BST

VENUE: Estadio Governador Magalhaes Pinto, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

REFEREE: M. Mazic

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Argentina (4-3-3):- Romero; Rojo, Fernandez, Garay, Zabaleta; di Maria, Mascherano, Garay; Aguero, Higuain, Messi
Iran (4-2-3-1):- Haghighi; Pooladi, Sadeqi, Hosseini, Montazeri; Teymourian, Nekounam; Dejagah, Hajsafi, Heydari; Ghoochannejihad

LAST MATCH:
Argentina:- 2-1 vs Bosnia and Herzegovnia
Iran:- 0-0 vs Nigeria

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Argentina 3-0 Iran

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