Argentina didn’t impress everyone – or maybe anyone – when opening their World Cup bid against Bosnia, but this looks an open tournament and there are reasons to hope and expect that they can make it two from two in easier style against an Iran side that has possibly exceeded expectations with a point from their opener against Nigeria.
Argentina took an early lead and then laboured badly against a Bosnia side that played with a great amount of solidity and impressive composure in defence, until the second half when a change from the 5-3-2 formation that seemed alien to the Albieceste changed into a 4-3-3 which allowed glimpses of the threatening forward play from the likes of Messi, Di Maria and Aguero that has so many predicting them to lift the trophy in less than a month’s time.
Immediately after the break Argentina looked far more threatening and were getting close before making things 2-0 and afterwards they did have other chances to make the game safe, looking better going wide as the game went on before Bosnia scored a deserved goal of their own late on.
Iran’s opening game against Nigeria looked set to be a dour one based on previous form and it turned out to be so, with the two teams fighting out easily the most boring game of what has been a wonderful tournament. Nigeria, despite having 63% possession, created nothing of note and it was the same for Iran barring a chance for their main forward Reza Ghoochannejhad which drew a fine save, and their strategy will be built around depending deep and attempting to frustrate the 1/8 favourites here today.
And that plan has worked well for them so far. In reaching the finals, Iran conceded just two goals and kept 10 clean sheets in 16 qualifying games – and their lawn sheet against Iran was their fourth in their last five. However the best side they played during that sequence was probably South Korea, who they beat 1-0 twice to win here, and the 38 places that separated them on FIFA’s international rankings could begin to look generous at some point in the game.
Sitting deep and trying to hold out against Argentina is all good in theory but with Gago on from the start they should move more fluently and have a lot more outlets than the rather lame and disappointing Iranians. A breakthrough could take time and this is not a big stakes game but Argentina should be able to seal both halves.
1 pt Argentina to win both halves (evens general)