Saturday, June 21, 2014

Argentina beat Iran 1-0 in 2014 Fifa World Cup

Negative football typified Iran’s first half approach as they frustrated Argentina with ultra-defensive tactics. They were compact, quick to close down attackers, set out to have all men behind the ball and doubled on the man in possession and then tried to counter attack with few players after winning the ball. The aggression made them commit fouls outside the penalty area but the South Americans wasted the chances.

Iran won a few set plays and proved a little more threatening in both delivery and in dealing with them than the revered former champions. They only sent in four men in the penalty area for corner kicks and free kicks, allowed three in the attacking half and the rest guarded against the counter attacks. When pushed hard, they had all players in the penalty area and gave Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria the attention of three markers.  

Argentina could not create a clear goal-scoring chance but squandered the half chances that came their way. They probed ineffectively with quick little passes outside the D-zone. The quality of the final ball was bad as they could have tried going around the wings at fast pace. On few occasions, they got Zabaletta and Di Maria in good crossing position, but the deliveries took too long and lacked quality.

Iran had the best two chances of the match, forcing Romero to make an excellent save in the 63rd minute and one of the save of the tournament in the 66th minute. A reasonable counter attacking opportunity came in the 85th minute but Reza was not clinical in his finish. In between, there were penalty shouts after the hard-working Dejagah raced into the penalty box and seemed to have his progress halted by a challenge that the referee thought was legal. Argentina looked vulnerable in corner kicks.

There was just enough time on the clock for one magic action by Messi. He received the ball from the right, taking it to his left foot with just man in attendance. He set himself for a shot, raised his head to see the position of the keeper, planted the non-kicking foot alongside the ball, spread his arms wide for balance, his eyes on the ball, he struck the ball at the bottom half with the inside of the foot to give it a spin. The ball rose and curled around the defender and the diving goalkeeper to the net, breaking the brave and fighting Iranian warriors.

Iran failed to properly deal with a cross, making a clearance to their left. The ball fell to Zabaletta who played the ball along the line and the reverse pass to the inside was collected by Messi who slowed down, searched for options, tried to find space and an angle for a shot. Reza was a shade too far, enough for the Argentinian to do the needful, scoring a fabulous goal for a hard fought 1-0 win.