Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1: Highlights, key battles and what the result means
Published on Jun 16, 2014 8:47 AM
In Brazil's most iconic football cathedral, Argentina's favourite son dispelled any fears of a World Cup hangover.
Lionel Messi's dazzling dribble-and-drive turned around a dour affair that was in danger of being deemed unworthy of the hallowed turf at the Maracana stadium.
The pressure of carrying an entire nation was visibly lifted off the shoulders of the Barcelona ace, who entered the fixture with just one goal in 571 minutes of World Cup action. But as a whole, La Albiceleste have more questions than answers after a nervy 2-1 win over tournament debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Forwards Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria struggled to link up effectively with the roving Messi. The talented trio seemed to prefer eye-catching solo moves rather than constructive inter-play. Some credit must go to the Bosnians, who defended stoutly and could have even snatched a point if they had showed more willingness to bomb forward earlier.
– The quickest own goal in World Cup history kicked off the encounter as Messi's teasing free-kick was bundled into his own net by 20-year-old left-back Sead Kolasinac inside two minutes.
– Cometh the 65th minute, cometh the man. Picking up the ball deep in Bosnia's half, Messi slalomed past three markers - causing two to bump into each other - before deftly curling the ball into goal via the inside of the post.
– Bosnia deservedly got on the scoresheet with five minutes left. Substitute Vedad Ibisevic will go down in history books as the country's first World Cup scorer, prodding the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who remains one of Argentina's weak links.
Edin Dzeko vs Federico Fernandez
No player was involved in more goals in the European World Cup qualifiers than Manchester City hitman Dzeko (10 goals, 4 assists). No player did more to stop him on Sunday than rising Napoli centre-back Fernandez.
The 1.93-metre Bosnian's aerial prowess - four headed goals in qualifying alone - was snuffed out by his 1.89m marker, who also threw in a goal-saving headed clearance for good effect.
Man of the Match
Even after a litany of personal and club accolades, Messi's legacy continues to be called into question for his failure to deliver any significant silverware for Argentina. Although we have seen more inspiring and incredible performances from the 26-year-old, his strike - and earlier assist - against Bosnia showcased an innate ability to be great even as his team-mates looked distinctly ordinary.
What the result means
Bosnia are capable of winning their two remaining matches to finish as runners-up of a relatively weak Group F.
With less trickier games against Iran and Nigeria to come, Argentina must not let complacency creep into the dressing room. Far tougher opposition awaits if they aspire for a third World Cup triumph.
Messi will need more help from Aguero, di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, who themselves must accept the fact that they are secondary characters to one of the game's greats.