ANALYSIS- Before the beginning of this tournament, Argentina were massive favorites going in. They are still basking off of their Copa America win versus Brazil last year, and still boast one of the greatest of all time in Lionel Messi. However, have they really lived up to these early expectations in the opening four games?
With a shock opening defeat against minnows Saudi Arabia that left many questioning their chances, to three consecutive wins leading up to the quarter-final, let’s look over Argentina’s strengths and weaknesses to see what makes them a threat, and what might make them crumble.
Argentina’s Strengths and Weaknesses: Magical Messi But Lacking Support
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 7, 2022
Strengths – Messi and the Midfielders.
When you have a six-time Ballon D’or winner in your team, who has been regarded as one of the very best in the last decade and a half, chances are your team will always be dangerous. Messi, who historically has not shone in previous World Cups as much as one might expect, has been lighting it up for Argentina this iteration.
With 4 G/A in as many games, Messi has been a beacon for Los Albiceleste. He has been rolling back the years with his deft dribbling, his pinpoint passing and clinical finishing. Even though Messi can be considered now a football veteran at 35, he still the heart and soul of this Argentina team.
Luckily for him, he is also supported in the midfield by quality as well. The three-man midfield of Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul have been solid in middle of the park.
Since Argentina like to build up from the back, the midfield has been crucial in progressing the ball forward quickly. They are also resilient in defense, and not only track back to deal with any dangers in transition, but also are really organized in the high press to be able to win the ball up high or force a long ball.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 3, 2022
Weaknesses – Floundering Attack and Shaky Defense
As talented a playmaker as he is a finisher, Messi carves chances out of nowhere for his team, only requiring the finishing touch by a teammate. The issue is, just like his runner-up side in 2014, his team aren’t as prolific as he.
Lautaro Martinez, who has been a prolific striker for Inter Milan, has not been setting the world alight this competition. He has missed several chances, many that were on a plate thanks to Messi. These misses have led to games that Argentina have dominated get cagey at the end, where the opposing team feels like they can still get a result.
Julian Alvarez, to his credit, has been chipping in, but he is still raw and untried at such competitions, and so Messi needs those other senior internationals to pull their weight.
That includes their defense, who has been very shaky at times. A stunning display from Saudi Arabia showcased the defensive frailties that Argentina have in their defensive organization and in how their defenders close down. Their less than convincing clearances have also led to multiple chances, like Australia’s goal and Saudi Arabia’ second. Versus tougher opposition, these mistakes will likely be punished a lot more and so the defense needs to shape up in these regards.
SAUDI ARABIA JUST BEAT ARGENTINA 2-1 🤯 pic.twitter.com/4JONXWUvhd
— GOAL (@goal) November 22, 2022
Full Team Effort Required
Overall, while Messi is always the man of the moment, to be able to finally win this competition he will have to rely on his team to help him at the final hurdle. His midfield will be sure to allow him the time and space to be able to work his magic, but he will be hoping that Argentina’s attack will be firing on all cylinders, and their defense is switched on, or else risk the same heartbreak he experienced all those years ago in Brazil.
We will see how Argentina line-up versus Netherlands in their quarter-final clash on Friday at 10 PM local.