Argentina sneaked past Iran 1-0 in their second group thanks to a last gasp Lionel Messi goal. Here are three things we learned about La Albiceleste after making it two wins from two, written by Declan Olley (declanolley).
Messi magic spares Argentina’s blushes
Lionel Messi didn’t really do a lot in the game, but he made the difference when it mattered. His stunning injury time goal was a deserved winner and saved Argentina from what would have been an embarrassing 0-0 draw.
The Barcelona forward had been subdued throughout and at times a little selfish – much like he was against Bosnia. His team-mates were always searching for him but he couldn’t find any space – that was up until the 91st minute.
He shifted the ball onto his left, worked some space from 20 yards out and in the blink of an eye he curled the ball past Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi to make it 1-0.
Before Messi’s magical strike though, Argentina had been frustrated by Iran, ranked 43rd and 38 places below their opponents in the FIFA rankings. And they even had to survive a few scares with keeper Sergio Romero making a couple of saves and right-back Pablo Zabaleta fortunate not to give away a penalty after fouling Ashkan Dejagah.
Iran’s performance will give those fearing Argentina hope. They kept their frontline of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, who have 80 goals in 176 international apperanaces between them, quiet and showed that the counter-attack is, unsurprisingly, the best weapon to use against La Albiceleste.
Despite Messi’s heroics, this performance raises some doubts over Argentina’s World Cup bid and will give fellow favourites Brazil, France and Germany hope.
Frustrating first-halves costing Sabella’s side
Argentina were underwhelming in the first 45 minutes in their opener against Bosnia and the same could be said here. Alejandro Sabella’s side created little with only Higuain and Aguero testing Haghighi. In fact, Argentina looked most threatening at set-piece plays.
Iran’s defensive tactics should have come as no surprise to Sabella but Argentina didn’t seem to have a plan in place to counter it. Many were expecting an Argentine blitz but the tempo was too slow and everything was played in front of the Iranian defence.
Argentina’s first-half performances will have to liven up and prove more productive if they are to win this World Cup.
Left-back Rojo impresses
Liverpool fans will hope rumours of a £12million bid for Marcos Rojo are true on this performance. The left-back provided some fabulous crosses which didn’t get the finishing touch they deserved, was reliable defensively when called upon and a threat in the opposition’s box from set-pieces.
Before the tournament Rojo was seen as Argentina’s weak link; a centre-back by trade filling in at left-back. But the Sporting Lisbon defender has shown real quality in this tournament so far. The real test for Rojo, though, will come against stronger opposition.