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Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-11-22 13:28:20
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Well, I've been following all the matches of the current World Cup, but I hadn't seen, until now, a match that was worthy of a column to comment on it. I even thought about writing about England and Iran, but I ended up giving up. Today's first match, however, made me want to write details that I noticed about the match, in general terms.
Of course, Argentina were huge favorites for today's clash. There was no debate about that. Right from the start, Lionel Messi shoots a ball that the opposing goalkeeper defends. After that, I thought it would be complete domination of Argentina. However, I noticed some differences in the albiceleste's style of play, the main one being the lack of combinations on the inside.
From the beginning, it was noticeable that Di Maria wanted the ball behind the full-back, thus gaining a vast advantage against the opposing defensive system, but the long ball for the Argentine, at first, took a while to arrive. It was clear that Argentina would look more for a direct game, seeking to overcome the opponent's offside line, than a combinatorial game of short passes.
However, there are two aspects that I highlight about the clash between Argentine advances and Saudi Arabia's offside line. First, the notorious lack of Argentine synchronization. That is, either the forward started at the wrong moment; or the teammate sent the ball at the wrong time. Second, the impressive attention of Saudi Arabia's defensive line. It was not just Argentina's demerit, but Saudi Arabia's incredible merit in having attention to the line to stop opposing forwards with their offside trap. It clearly worked. Even in the second half, when the last line was broken, the goalkeeper knew exactly the right moment to go, even though he was clearly well ahead.
Conclusion: Argentina exploited what they believed to be defensive loopholes, but they were perfectly executed traps on the part of Saudi Arabia. Of the four goals scored by Argentina in the first half, three were disallowed for offside, a notorious conclusion that the strategy worked for Saudi Arabia.
The penalty was, in a way, in my opinion, quite rigid. The penalty, moreover, reflects an even worse result for Argentina, as it failed to score with the ball rolling, through its system and style of play.
One thing I noticed was that, after Argentina scored the disallowed goals, apparently, the team gave an image of being comfortable with the 1:0 on the scoreboard, of being under an illusory dominance. When these things happen, the team must always pay more attention, because you can't let your guard down when goal situations are not efficient — and that's what Argentina did.
Already in the second half, in the first three shots of Saudi Arabia, the team scored two goals, causing a psychological shock in the albiceleste. You can't let the opponent gain morale, stand out and enjoy the game. As much as Argentina tried, clearly, due to the opposing goalkeeper's saves and missed chances, the plot had already been written for this match: Argentina, whatever the cost, would lose this match. It simply wasn't the day for Lionel Messi's team and company, who played a completely precarious, poor, inefficient, inaccurate and unrecognizable performance.
Lionel Messi far below average performance, Ángel Di Maria far below average performance and very shy in the first half, Rodrigo De Paul was imprecise in his long passes, Lautaro Martínez was almost not activated. The substitutions made by coach Lionel Scaloni were far from being efficient, they appeared to be more bets than something tactically planned.
I also have to highlight Saudi Arabia's efficiency, mainly defensive, in the match. They were very precise, attentive and punctual in their actions. They knew how to take advantage of the few chances they had and managed to hold back Argentina's offensive actions, through a risky strategy, in fact, but which worked.
Argentina, depending on the outcome of the match between Mexico and Poland later on, could have a very difficult time in the tournament. One thing is completely certain: Argentina will be forced to show a lot more will and attention against the next two opponents in the group.
That was a historic match, unexpected, a drama that needed this World Cup. Waiting for more matches like this.
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