ARGENTINA 2-1 BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
SUNDAY 15TH JUNE – RIO DE JANIERO
Although not convincing it was a winning start for Argentina in a close affair against World Cup debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a hard fought win against a disciplined and technically adept Bosnian side who were undone by the usual brilliance from Lionel Messi.
Starting with a 3-5-2, the South Americans got off to a dream start finding themselves a goal up after just three minutes of action. Messi swung over a free kick from the left wing, Marcos Rojo glanced it on and the ball bounced off the shin of the unlucky Sead Kolašinac and rolled past Asmir Begović in goal.
The spectators inside the Maracana watched on as Argentina were ahead inside their bitter rivals’ home ground and everyone expected a goal rush but it never came. The Argentines and Messi in particular – looked disjointed for large parts of the game and found it a real struggled to build on their early advantage. For much of the remainder of the first half, Bosnia proved to be the better team. They began to control midfield and four minutes before half time, they nearly tied the game.
Lazio winger Senad Lulić, who had troubled the Argentinean defence throughout, sped ahead of defensive pairing of Javier Mascherano and Hugo Campagnaro to meet a corner from the right and goalkeeper Sergio Romero had to get down to push his header away.
After witnessing the first half problems, Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella rang the changes at half-time by introducing Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago and switching to a flat back four with Messi playing behind Higuain and Sergio Aguero in attack.
Argentina still did not find their fluency and their fans were becoming restless, until the 65th minute when Lionel Messi finally provided some magic. Picking the ball up deep in his own half and sprinting at the Bosnian back four. The Barcelona star exchanged passes with Higuain, skipped past a challenge and placed his left-footed shot in off the post from the edge of the area. This was Messi’s only his second goal at the World Cup finals and it finally settled the nerves.
Late on, Stuttgart striker Vedad Ibiševic pulled a goal back for Safet Sušić’s men as he poked through Romero’s legs after a fine through ball by Lulić, but Argentina held on. It was a great performance by the Bosnian’s on their debut, and showed the world that they are not here to make up the numbers.
Argentina will have to improve if they wish to become a real threat to this competition and will look to the remaining games against Iran and Nigeria to hone out any problems.
ARGENTINA: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Campagnaro (Gago 46), Fernandez, Rojo, Maxi Rodriguez (Higuain 46), Mascherano, Di Maria, Messi, Aguero (Biglia 87).
GOALS: Kolašinac 3OG, Messi 65.
BOOKINGS: Rojo 25.
BOSNIA: Begović, Mujdža (Ibiševic 69), Bičakčić, Spahić, Kolašinac, Bešić, Pjanić, Hajrović (Višća 71), Misimović (Medunjanin 74), Lulić, Džeko.
GOALS: Ibiševic 84.
BOOKINGS: Spahić 63.
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