The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #1 For 7/5/14: Gonzalo's Golzaooo Sends The Albiceleste Into The Semis
FT: Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Photo from Getty Images
Four years ago, the Argentina defense was pure shambles at the back under Diego Maradona. But under Alejandro Sabella, their defensive shape has returned to their side and it was exhibited in full detail today.
It has to be said that Belgian manager Marc Wilmots helped in that aspect, with poor tactics throughout today. Not one time did Jose Basanta get challenged 1-on-1 by Kevin Mirallas, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, and whenever Eden Hazard thought about overlapping. Also, starting Divock Origi after Romelu Lukaku got on track against the US also proved to be the wrong move.
It was a sign of a team who needed that bit more experience to make headway at a major tournament, but questions will be asked if Wilmots now is the man who can make those big choices in a tournament. Hazard should have came off for Mertens, but again it was either the Napoli man or Mirallas being subbed out first instead of the disappointing Chelsea man.
But praise will be bestowed to Sabella. He was forced to put Basanta in for the suspended Rojo, but his inclusion of Martin Demichelis and Lucas Biglia proved to be a pure masterstroke. The Manchester City man formed a fine partnership with Ezequiel Garay, while Biglia a bit more bite in the midfield on both sides that Fernando Gago just hasn't been able to.
And how Sabella's team responded after Angel Di Maria's injury showed the value of playing close to home, as the massive Argentine crowd support spurred their side to their first semifinal at a World Cup in 24 long years.
Halftime: Argentina 1, Belgium 0
On the fine first goal, Kompany made the mistake of dribbling in the midfield with Messi always there to track back and harass, and that lead to Messi starting the buildup that lead to Di Maria's defection and Higuain's goal.
Marc Wilmots made a mistake for me by playing Origi after Lukaku has had confidence, but the teenage has not been helped by his teammates not staying in the same spot. You have De Bruyne, Mirallas, Hazard, and Fellaini moving all over the place. Despite a threat always being there and trying to confuse Argentina as much as possible, it hasn't led to any continuity in the final ball pass with Vertonghen providing the only real final ball of quality on Mirallas missed header.
Before Lukaku comes in for Origi, Wilmots must tell his attacking three underneath the forward to stop moving around all over the place and establish themselves in original places.
With Di Maria off, the chances for Belgium grow here.
Marc Wilmots has still given the start to Divock Oirgi over Romelu Lukaku, and I think that let Argentina slightly off the hook. Origi won't get many clear positive moments today vs Argentina as he did against the United States.
Sabella has given Demichelis the start, while he had to give Basanta the nod with Marcos Rojo's big suspension. You'll see Toby Alderweireld try to get forward enough to take advantage of that huge absence. How Biglia performs also will be vital, but Basanta will need a career day taking on the exciting Kevin Mirallas.
Of course, will Witsel be able to stay on Messi tight enough today is the major question. Witsel is not an intimidator at the holding spot, more of a deep lying passer than destroyer.. He must embrace that destroyer's mentality today.