A slight change of shape and personnel for Argentina but it was another win for the South Americans as they continue to impress under the ever-entertaining Diego Maradona.
The opening game against Nigeria could have been a similar scoreline to this 4-1 victory but for a stunning performance by their keeper Enyeama. As it was, the score remained 1-0 last Saturday and there was just the one change from that team this time around – Maxi Rodriguez coming in for the injured Juan Seba Veron. It saw a subtle change in shape for the Argentinians. The diagram below shows the average positions in the first game:
Notice how Veron was by no means playing the mirror position to Di Maria, who held the width on the left-hand side. The Argentinian right-side was a flexible collaborative effort courtesy of Jonas Gutierrez, a natural winger, pushing on from full-back, Veron drifting out there at times and Carlos Tevez or Gonzalo Higuain working hard to get back in support.
Against South Korea, with Maxi a far more natural wide-man than Veron, the formation became a more regulation 4-4-2 diamond formation:
Messi’s performance at the tip of the diamond was a pleasure to watch as the world’s best player gave another glimpse of his immense talents. The front two were also more impressive – freed of the constraints of patrolling the right-flank when out of possession. Higuain was to walk away with the match-ball with a textbook display of world-class goal hanging – all 3 coming at the far post from a combined distance of the average sized living room. As for Tevez, his busy efforts catch the eye but he perhaps lacked that little bit of awareness at times. Indeed, the last two goals came with his replacement Sergio Aguero on the field and the little Atletico man was heavily involved in both.
Messi returned the favour with a gorgeous chip over the Korean defence to find Aguero:
Maxi has been highlighted in these pictures because they indicate the more attacking shape the Argentinians adopted in this game. This was not a position Veron found himself in too often and, for the 4th goal in particular, the presence of Maxi in an advanced role helped open the space for Higuain by keeping the Korean defender Yeom Ki-Hun wide.
It was certainly a warning shot across the bow of any side that comes across the Argentines at the business end of this World Cup and showed that they can succeed with a different point of attack. They adapted well to a 4-4-2 diamond with Messi acting as the primary playmaker after having used Veron effectively as a deeper-lying playmaker in the first game. Doubts remain at the back but, after this display, all indications are that this will not be a problem until much deeper into the tournament.