Argentina’s World Cup opening fixture ended in disappointment as they could only manage a draw against debutants Iceland on Saturday.
Lionel Messi will no doubt dominate headlines following his missed penalty that could have given his side the lead.
Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in the 19th minute but his effort was cancelled out by Alfred Finnbogason within five minutes.
Here’s a look at the tactical battle between managers Jorge Sampaoli and Heimir Hallgrimsson.
Goals – 1
Shots – 25
Possession – 78%
Tackles – 13
Dribbles – 17
Goals – 1
Shots – 8
Possession – 22%
Tackles – 20
Dribbles – 8
Argentina set up in a 4-4-2 formation with Sergio Aguero partnering Messi up front. The Barcelona star was afforded a free role in the final third and tried to pull the strings in attack. Sampaoli’s side unsurprisingly dominated possession with Javier Mascherano in particular recycling possession well but they did lack creativity and penetration through the middle.
La Albiceleste have consistently struggled in their attempts to play out from the back though and saw that ploy backfire yet again as Iceland pounced on a familiar mistake.
There isn’t much to dissect when you analyse Iceland’s strategy under Hallgrimsson. Operating in a 5-4-1 formation, you more or less get what you expect from them. They sit deep, are well organised and defend for their lives.
However, sitting too deep up to a point that you’re forcing your keeper back onto his own line can be a concern and Iceland did well not to fall into that trap. That part is just as tricky as retaining a threat going forward as well which the underdogs did and with only 22 per cent of the ball as well.
TACTICAL TALKING POINTS
Sampaoli – Too much asked of Messi
Sampaoli may have afforded Messi the luxury of a free role, but it often looked more like a burden. Virtually every attack went through him and he regularly dropped far too deep to get on the ball. Even when he did manage to find space and drive into the final third, there was little to work with.
A number of one-twos on the edge of the area looked promising but Iceland were alert to that threat and coped with it well. Ever Banega’s introduction for Lucas Biglia did help speed things up for Argentina and it was the Sevilla midfielder who created the opportunity from which Messi earned the penalty he’ll now probably wish he hadn’t.
Hallrgimsson – Sigurdsson’s role
While Messi was overburdened by his central role in Argentina’s set-up, Gylfi Sigurdsson thrived. He dropped into the flat midfield four without the ball but was the first to break forward at every opportunity. He supported Alfred Finnbogason well and it was his drilled ball across the six-yard box that eventually saw the striker score.
Despite largely coming to life only in the final third, Sigurdsson had more touches (54) than any other Iceland player and threatened the goal as well with a couple of dangerous strikes.
Should’ve acted to force the issue earlier on. Argentina had a lot of meaningless possession for much of the encounter. While Angel Di Maria was below par, bringing on Cristian Pavon in his stead late on was questionable as it forced Argentina to play even narrower when Iceland needed to be stretched.
Rating – 5/10
His team was will-drilled and showed great discipline. Hours on the training ground and a singular focus came to the fore but it must be said that Argentina didn’t throw any curve balls their way.
Rating – 6/10
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