The third match in the World Cup 2014 quarter-finals will be played between Argentina and Belgium on Saturday.
This will be a meeting of importance because it was a Diego Maradona-led Argentina which defeated the high flying Belgian side in the semi-final of the 1986 World Cup tournament and a revenge will be on Belgium’s mind.
Argentina’s laboured win against Switzerland in the round of 16 raised a few eyebrows and there’s no need of any further evidence that the team lacks balance, especially in the midfield.
Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago have been really impressive against all sides, but the lack of a link between attack and midfield creates a lot of space which frankly is impossible for both of the players to cover for their attack-minded forwards.
Though the Swiss were not able to get past Gago much (Like Nigeria were able to counter), with his intelligent interceptions, there were still some glaring instances where diagonal balls by Swiss midfield found their striker.
Belgium have won all the matches late, thanks to great substitutions. Coach Marc Wilmots has had a good tournament with his team selection and important substitutions according to the game’s needs.
Against the USA, the introduction of Kevin Mirallas and Romeu Lukaku proved to be masterstrokes with the latter breaking the deadlock. USA’s Tim Howard’s excellent game between the sticks saw the Belgians getting frustrated, but they were able to send their opponents home in the extra time.
The game will be majorly decided on how well Belgium’s midfielders, mainly Axel Witsel and/or Marouane Fellani, are able to contain Lionel Messi – which has been the story of the tournament so far.
Switzerland’s Gokhan Inler was successful in containing Messi’s runs and passes from the midfield, for large parts of the match. Angel di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi did try hard to create something from the flanks but their final ball was nowhere near good.
Gago’s presence as the slightly defensive midfielder was good for Argentina as he recycled the ball pretty well with his short passes and equally good cross-field balls to the wingers a heartening sight.
Argentina will look to continue with the same starting XI, but player like Lucas Biglia should be introduced to the starting lineup as he can be the runner in the midfield which is clearly lacking in the side.
Alongside Gago, Biglia will be the perfect foil with Mascherano as the holding midfielder.
Belgium has a problem of plenty with lots of players vying for a place in the starting XI. Picking up a pacey side with attacking wingbacks on the flanks should be a priority.
Mirallas should be a starter with his dribbling skills and on the ball ability will be a threat to the shaky Albiceleste backline. Belgium will be looking to be more solid defensively as the quality Argentine attack can be a real threat.
Eden Hazard will be Belgium’s best attacker on the pitch and his influence has been same as Messi with Argentina. Upfront Divock Origi looks likely to start as the center forward for Belgium.
Over +2.5 goals to be scored: 11/8 (Stan James)
Drawn game after 90 minutes: 40/17 (BetBright)