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Don’t cry for Argentina with World Cup knockouts still a possibility

Nick Murphy | 26 June 2018

Coral put a plan together for Messi and co.

It’s fair to say the World Cup hasn’t gone quite to plan for Argentina so far. Jorge Sampaoli’s men have collected one point from their opening two games and were humbled 3-0 by Croatia last time out.

Their time in Russia has been marred by disunity, a lack of faith in Sampaoli and a total misuse of Lionel Messi in a tournament where the world’s biggest names have all stepped up to the plate.

Defeat to Croatia left them staring down the barrel of elimination. But Iceland’s loss to Nigeria on Friday has given them a scarcely deserved reprieved.

Argentina now need to beat the Super Eagles and hope Croatia see off Iceland to guarantee their place in the last-16. Other equations could also see La Albiceleste through.

Regardless of what happens elsewhere, the Coral News Team have looked at what the South Americans need to do to give themselves the best possible chance on Tuesday.

Messi needs to step up

First and foremost, Messi needs to step up to the plate. In a tournament where the biggest names have shone brightest, the Barcelona ace has been disappointingly quiet.

Of course, the 31-year-old can’t do it all by himself. But the only way Argentina stand any chance of qualifying is if Messi sprinkles some gold dust against Nigeria. Judging by La Albiceleste’s performance against Croatia, he’ll need a bucket load of the stuff.

However, for Messi to do that, Argentina will need to function much better as a unit. There’s a fine line between overreliance on a star player and that player providing the focal point of a well-functioning team. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have proved that it can be done to good effect. Argentina would be well advised to try a similar approach.

When it comes down to it, the weight of a nation is firmly pressed on the diminutive figure of the beleaguered Messi. He’ll need to stand tall if that pressure is to be removed.

Sampaoli needs to set it up

A large portion of the blame for Argentina’s underwhelming performances so far can be laid at the door of the manager. Sampaoli impressed hugely with Chile at the last World Cup thanks to an attacking system which relied on a high pressing game. Yet his tactical calls and team set-up this time around have left onlookers baffled.

Javier Mascherano and Enzo Perez were totally overawed by Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric at the base of the Argentina midfield. The pair looked remarkably out of their depth and not at home in a system which restricted the South American’s attacking play.

Ever Banega must come in on Tuesday alongside Giovani Lo Celso in order to get the ball moving and provide Messi with chances. Maximiliano Meza could also be on borrowed time with Juventus star Paulo Dybala watching on.

Defence needs to sort it out

It’s a good job Sampaoli is follically challenged. Otherwise he’d be pulling his hair out at some of his side’s decisions at the back. Willy Caballero has made significant errors in both group matches and should be dropped.

In front of him, a three-man defence hasn’t worked. The attacking propensity of Eduardo Salvio and Marcos Acuna left Argentina’s backline horribly exposed and ultimately picked off by the pacey Croatians.

A return to a back-four against Nigeria should provide more cover for their weak centre-half options. And it could be needed too, given the lack of solidity against Croatia.

World Cup previews, betting tips and insight – Coral have it all.

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