Why Argentina couldn't break down Iceland
Lionel Messi in disarray/Credit: Francisco Leong

Why Argentina couldn't break down Iceland

It wasn't to be Argentina's day, particularly their captain's, Lionel Messi. They struggled to promote any kind of impetus in the game and it was a really poor performance.

Dominic Scott-Bone

There had been a great expectation surrounding Argentina for this World Cup after falling only at the final hurdle to Germany in 2014.

However, what those failed to acknowledge was the fact that the 23-man squad's quality is top-heavy with attacking talent.

The nation has a plethora of forwards at their disposal.

Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and the unused substitute Paulo Dybala are all fine players but why was it that Argentina couldn't break through the Icelandic barriers?

Too reliant on Messi

Once again Argentina failed to initiate a plan B in a major tournament.

With a multitude of attacking quality who are blessed with considerable pace and skill, they struggled against a deep-lying Iceland side.

It was almost as if ten Argentinian men were standing and waiting for   Messi to unpick the defence and produce a moment of genius, rather than utilise their talents.

If we go back to the Brazilian World Cup four years ago, each and every group game Argentina won was by just one goal, and had Messi not missed his penalty we would have had the same formality.

This is a problem that Argentina have faced for many years, but have failed to address for whatever reason.

Marked man

Barcelona's brilliant playmaker is with out a doubt one of the best footballers to grace this earth, but against a nation that sits deep and compact it's obvious that help is needed from elsewhere.

Iceland were clever and had three players surrounding the 30-year-old at all times and in the last ten minutes of the game, despite Argentinian desperation defended confidently.

Slow play

There were no intricacies involved, the passing was slow, the movement was lethargic and the only real opportunities came through their captain dribbling past two or three defenders but was blocked by the next resilient Icelandic defender, or even on one occasion by his own teammate.

If Argentina are to perform any sort of push for the cup there needs to be change, and change quickly.

The media produce a constant bombardment of unprofessionalism towards Portugal's national squad, stating that they are just a one man team and to a degree I understand what they are trying to say. But versus Spain, although Cristiano Ronaldo scored all three of their goals, the importance of a collaborative and synergetic team was exemplified through the Real Madrid star's commendment.

The manager

“There’s a certain amount of frustration right now.” 

“We really came to win against a team that had a very strong defensive structure with a lot of people in the box, which prevented us from capitalizing on ball possession."

These were the words of Jorge Sampaoli post-match.

If these quotes are anything to go by a lack of managerial nous comes to mind. To not expect Iceland to sit compactly and look to attack on the counter is nothing short of injudicious.

Surely this week they must have practiced for this kind of match up. There was no other possible way that Iceland were going to play.

Not effective

Pass after pass led to possession being lost as the Argentinian's attempted to play through the eye of a needle. Even after Ever Banega had come on for Lucas Biglia and the shape had become more like the 2-3-3-2 Sampaoli had promised in the lead up to the World Cup the attacking style was not effective.

There were obvious attempts to change the game changing from 4-4-1-1 shape to a 2-3-3-2 and then towards the end Sampaoli went with a 4-4-2 formation with Higuain surprisingly forced onto the wing.

But the tactics deployed by their manager and on the pitch every passing move and shot on goal was erratic.

They now have to figure out a way to play teams that sit deep and allow no space in behind. The game showed their incapabilities at the back as Iceland had many an opportunity up the other end.

The exact same thing happened to Ronaldo

If you cast your mind back to the European Championships in 2016, you may remember Iceland too earning a draw against Portugal.

The tactics deployed were ever so similar as the main objective was to frustrate Ronaldo.

Portugal's frontman had over ten shots that day but the constant harassment of the Icelandic collective proved way too much.

The words said by Ronaldo post-match proved his exasperation.

Teams will now go out to ruffle Messi's feathers throughout this tournament.

A lot now rests on Sampaoli's shoulders and it'll be interesting to see what happens on Thursday evening against the also incredibly attacking set-up of Croatia.


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