Last-gasp Messi strike rescues Argentina
Alejandro Sabella switched back to 4-3-3 against Iran, but the Albiceleste still needed inspiration from their star player. It was hardly the stuff of champions...
This was what they wanted. Lionel Messi had called for a return to 4-3-3 after the much-maligned 5-3-2 experiment against Bosnia-Herzegovina last Sunday and the captain was backed by team-mates, media and seemingly everyone else. Against lowly Iran, it was expected to work wonders. Instead, it failed miserably for 91 minutes.
Messi began in a three-man forward line with Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, with Angel Di Maria pushing on behind them. The fantastic four. His favourites. "Messi prefers to play in a 4-3-3 with Di Maria joining in the attack," Sabella said on Friday in the pre-match press conference. And the coach added: "Against Iran we'll play 4-3-3." Messi had got exactly what he had asked for. But Argentina did not, at least in terms of the performance.
Early indications suggested they may struggle. Iran, ranked 43rd in the Fifa world rankings, were defending deep - and with discipline. "We can't focus only on Messi," coach Carlos Queiroz had said on Friday. "Because Argentina have so many other great players. We will play against time and against space - because that is what we can control."
Unlike Barcelona's 4-3-3 in which Messi is the shining star, Argentina's system is more in tune with Real Madrid's counter-attacking philosophy. But up against a back line defending deep and handing the initiative to Argentina, Sabella's side struggled to find the spaces.
Argentina Iran 1-0 Watch Highlights and Goal of Messi
World Cup 2014