The lesson that Alejandro Sabella learned at Estadio Maracanã was to not try and fix what is not broken. Tinkering with what was effective and making it utterly useless. In the second half Argentina, he returned to what was originally in place and although it was not the most effective, Argentina still were able to gather enough pixie dust to see Lionel Messi slam the door shut on Bosnia by a 2-1 scoreline.
It was one of the most imposing venues in this or any World Cup and Argentina made it their home very quickly. Fans as well as popular models made their presence felt at Estadio Maracanã and that was one of the few places where Argentina minimized their rival on the pitch in their World Cup debut.
When they pressured early on there were signs that seemed like Argentina could steamroll past the Bosnians. What ended up happening was that Alejandro Sabella’s latest tactical inspiration to solidify what was never solid and he ended up losing the middle of the pitch.
In the process, there were moments when squad truly struggled in a 5-3-2. Certain sectors saw a major need for change especially when you have Ángel Di María going back so deep that he was not able to link up with Sergio Agüero.
The problems were so evident that Sabella did something that was extremely atypical in his time as coach. He brought in Gonzalo Higuaín and Fernando Gago and took off Maxi Rodríguez and Hugo Campagnaro. At first there was a great deal of suspect play as Bosnia came out of the gate quickly. Eventually you saw that with the addition of Higuaín and Gago Messi looked more comfortable and that led to his first goal of the World Cup.
To say Lionel Messi is important to Argentina is like saying wheels are important to a car. As he goes, so does La Albiceleste. With this change you saw a Messi that was out of sync and seemed alone at times as his teammates were very far from him to be able to create or even clear some marks and prevent multiple players converging on him.
Then the moment many fans paid hundreds and even thousands of dollars to see, came to fruition. Messi’s run began in typical Messi fashion as he links up in a play with Higuaín and then the little slap, by the guy that could be his partner at Barcelona shortly, freed him up to take a left-footed shot that beat Asmir Begovic.
It was a page from an Oscar-winning script put into a B-movie. It was a moment of brilliance that many knew had to come, but with the progression of the match looked doubtful. More importantly, it was a goal that calmed a great deal of nerves and helped Messi relaxed just a little bit as eight years of burden was lifted off his shoulders rather quickly.
Yet the imperfections remained. There were some problems on defense and it was shown on Bosnia’s goal by Vedad Ibisevic in the 86th minute. A defensive lapse saw Argentina go in chase mode and the Stuttgart ace would find the back of the net via Sergio Romero’s five hole. Still Sabella understands that those imperfections are part of the dynamic of this Argentine side.
He’s mentioned that on various occasions when he’s said that his job was to “minimize those weaknesses”. Today’s attempt to do so was a major indicator that he went a step too far. Fortunately, he was able to right the ship on time and secure an important result.
This result essentially puts the Argentinians in an ideal situation as they will sit back and wait to see what happens between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.’