A goal inside the opening 10 minutes was enough to see Argentina past a Belgium who huffed and puffed, but were unable to create too many clear cut chances throughout the game. Although the South Americans started the brighter of the two sides, as the game wore on, they were happy to just sit back, soak up the pressure and hit Belgium on the break. Belgium’s inability to find a killer through ball, coupled with their insistence on swinging in long balls, meant the Argentinean defence, which has looked shaky so far relatively untested.
Here are the 5 Talking Points from the Argentina vs Belgium fixture.
Higuain repays his faith
Going into the tournament Argentina had probably the best front three in the tournament. Although Messi has been nothing short of phenomenal, Argentina have struggled going forward thanks to the injury to Sergio Aguero and the form of Gonzalo Higuain. Whether due to lack of an alternative or an abundance of trust, Higuain started against Belgium when all evidence pointed towards the contrary.
In the end, Higuain showed just why Sabella put so much faith in him, by scoring with a sublime first-time shot which turned out to be a winner. He should’ve had another, but was unlucky to hit the woodwork after a fantastic 60-yard solo run. Aside from his goal, his link up play too was much better and was taken off to symphony of cheers rather than the chorus of boos which was prevalent in his previous matches.
Belgium flatter to deceive
Before the start of the tournament, lot of people had Belgium as one of the dark horses for the tournament. And they weren’t wrong as well, they got a brilliant spine which included arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, some top quality centre halves and some exciting young attacking players that was the envy of the rest of the world.
Although the Red Devils reached the Quarter Finals it was almost by default rather than it being a result of their brilliant attacking play. Not for once in the tournament did they excite the crowd with their attacking play and all their goals had come against tiring defenders in the last quarter of the game. In the end, Belgium will go home disappointed with their performances in Brazil.
Messi cut a figure of frustration
An injury to Angel Di Maria early in the game meant that the burden of creativity was once again thrust on Messi. And although the Barcelona forward certainly looked lively throughout the game and was his side’s best attacker on the pitch yet again, there was a sense that he was feeling the pressure of having to do everything on his own.
If his injury-time effort which was saved by Courtois said one thing, it was that for once the magician forgot to bring his wand. For all of his composure in possession, when it mattered most, he didn’t demand the ball and take the game by the scruff of the neck and was lucky to escape without a yellow card after some silly fouls. Whether this was a one-off or a sign of things to come, only time will tell.
Another boring knock tie
After the excitement, goals and the action that made the group stage so enjoyable, the knockout rounds are turning into a snooze-fest with neither side ready to risk everything to go in search of the winning goal. Instead, as the stakes have gotten higher, so has the level of pragmatism amongst the coaches, which was evident from Germany’s displays against France on Saturday night.
This game was yet another damp squib in so much as neither side really attacked with any real vigour or purpose. What was supposed to be an entertaining game between two attacking sides turned into a rather dull affair thanks to both managers’ insistence of keeping it solid at the back. And although Belgium looked the more likely scorers, both their passing and finishing let them down in a game of not too many talking points.
Argentina’s thread-bare squad almost exposed
One stat that is unlikely to please many Argentinean fans is that Argentina have used the most players of any side in this tournament. Barring one outfield player, everyone has had some part to play. While that might seem like a nice team-building exercise, the fact is that Sabella is still unsure of his best formation.
4-3-3 or 3-5-2 or 4-4-2? That is the question on Sabella’s minds even as his side march into their first World Cup Semi Final in 24 years. Given how short on quality their squad looks, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. With injuries and suspensions to contend with as well, Argentina seem ripe for the picking for a side that has some pace and can penetrate their compact midfield.