Argentina made a winning start at the 2014 World Cup against Bosnia-Herzegovina, but only just. FFT's Gregg Davies followed it live using free analysis tool Stats Zone...
Almost 75,000 (mainly Argentine) supporters gathered at the Maracana expecting a Lionel Messi masterclass as La Albiceleste began their bid for World Cup glory at the home of hated rivals Brazil.
They got off to the perfect start, Sead Kolasinac diverting Messi's free-kick into his own net inside three minutes. But Argentina rarely looked like adding to their lead in the first half, and World Cup debutants Bosnia could have been level at the break had goalkeeper Sergio Romero not denied Izet Hajrovic.The underdogs continued to fire in shots after half-time, but a piece of individual brilliance from the star attraction eventually put the game beyond them.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella lined his troops up with three central defenders and wing-backs Marcos Rojo and Pablo Zabaleta pushed high up the pitch, while Zabaleta's Manchester City club-mate Edin Dzeko led the line for Bosnia-Herzegovina in a 4-2-3-1 setup.
And it took less than 3 minutes for the World Cup contenders to hit the front; their imposing start rewarded with a goal as Kolasinac diverted a free-kick into his own net.
Safet Susic's side settled, and by the 15-minute mark they had made more than twice as many final-third passes as the South Americans despite having just 37% possession.
Javier Mascherano led the passing chart after 25 minutes, completing 28/28 and creating 2 chances for team-mates, while Messi was having trouble breaking through the Bosnian defence.
Miralem Pjanic was pulling the strings in midfield as Bosnia posed more and more of a threat. The Roma star had made twice as many attacking passes than anyone else after 41 minutes.
By half-time, Bosnia had created the same number of chances as Argentina despite being out-passed 269 to 159...
...and despite having 40% possession overall in the opening period, the Golden Lilies made almost twice as many attacking passes than Argentina.
Messi had a quiet half by his high standards, completing just 70% of his passes and succeeding with 3/11 in the final third.
Sabella brought on Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain at half-time and changed formation to the 4-3-3 used often in qualifying, with Messi receiving the ball more centrally in the No.10 role.
Bosnia-Herzegovina continued to cause problems, firing in 4 efforts on goal within 16 minutes of the restart compared to Argentina's 1.
But, unfortunately for them, Messi then awoke from his slumber. Seconds after skying a free-kick, the magician scored a stunner after playing a one-two with Higuain.
Bosnia's spirit crushed by Messi's brilliance, what had been a tricky tie suddenly became a stroll for Argentina. But the World Cup debutants would be rewarded with a goal their performance deserved after 83 minutes; Vedad Ibisevic finishing off Senad Lulic's neat through-ball to reduce arrears and set up an end-to-end finale.
They couldn't find a leveller, but will take plenty of positives going into their next two group games against Nigeria and Iran having out-shot the Argentines over 90 minutes.
Sabella's half-time change of both personnel and formation proved decisive, with Argentina and Messi able to impose themselves higher up the pitch.
Pjanic's form will be key to Bosnia-Herzegovina progressing into the knockout stages. The Roma man made more attacking passes (19) and ball recoveries (9) than anyone else on the pitch, as well as setting up for chances for team-mates and completing 4 of his 5 take-ons.
Facts and figures
- Sead Kolasinac scored the 3rd own goal of the 2014 World Cup. There were only 2 in total during the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
- The own goal is the quickest goal of the competition so far (02:10) and the quickest World Cup goal since Dario Srna’s goal for Croatia on 22nd June 2006 (1:56 vs Australia).
- Kolasinac’s opener was just the 2nd own goal that Argentina have had scored for them in World Cup history. The other one came in 2010 (vs South Korea).
- Lionel Messi scored his 2nd ever goal at the World Cup, with his 1st shot on target in the match.
- Messi played 623 minutes of World Cup football between his 1st and 2nd goal. His 1st goal (vs Serbia) was scored on June 16 2006.
- Vedad Ibisevic has scored Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 1st goal in World Cup history.
- Argentina have won 10 and lost just 1 of their last 13 World Cup group games (D2), scoring 26 and conceding just 5 in total in this run.
- Argentina have conceded just 2 goals in their last 6 World Cup group matches (4 clean sheets).
- Bosnia finished with more attempted shots (16) and more shots on target (6) than Argentina (12 and 2).