Whilst Iran will be looking for only their second victory in World Cup history, Argentina are being widely regarded as hot favorites, along with Brazil, to land their third World Cup title at the Maracana on the 13th of July.
It was also in the famous Maracana stadium where Alejandro Sabella, the Albiceleste coach, decided to set up his team in a 5-3-2 formation against Bosnia. This was mainly due to Higuain’s lack of full fitness. However, having played in a 4-3-3 style for the majority of their qualifying campaign, his team looked clearly uncomfortable with their forward players not in synch with their midfield colleagues. Having reverted to 4-3-3 at half-time, Argentina will most likely retain this set-up against their opponents.
Campagnaro will most likely be the defender to make way from the Bosnia game as Higuain will come in alongside Messi and Aguero in attack. Gago impressed after coming on at half-time and may start ahead of former Liverpool and Atletico Madrid midfielder Maxi Rodriguez. Mascherano will be looking to break up play in the middle of the park while di Maria will be link between the offensive unit and the rest of the team.
In the match against Nigeria, Iran showed great resilience and tactical awareness to get a point from the game. A similar approach can be expected from Carlos Quieroz’s team who will be probably lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and looking to soak up pressure and make the most of any raid into Argentine territory. Center-back Jalal Hosseini will need to use all the experience he has mustered from 86 international caps to organize the backline. Rarely will he ever face such a formidable attacking unit such as the one possessed by Argentina.
The onus will be on their Charlton Athletic forward Ghoochanneijhad to convert any chance coming his way. Their midfield pairing of Teymourian and captain Nekounam boast the likes of Fulham, Bolton Wanderers and Osasuna as their former teams in their CV. They also briefly played together for Iranian side Esteghlal and Quieroz will be hoping that they can use all their experience and understanding of each other’s game to win the battle in the middle of the park in Belo Horizonte.
Fulham’s Dejagah will be assigned the task of providing the creativity and possibly the touch of class required to help Iran achieve a positive result against their more illustrious rival.
Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Milorad Mazic (from Serbia)