2014 World Cup: Argentina's Most Important Game Will Not Come Until the Round of 16

By Douglas Smith
Argentina Lionel Messi
Getty Images

There are only four teams with a realistic chance of winning the World Cup and Argentina is one of them. In fact, they are favored to make the final against Brazil. Their talent and the advantage of playing close to home will help them breeze through the group stage. This means their most important game will come in the round of 16 when it is one and done.

In the past two tournaments Argentina were also a favorite only to fall in the quarterfinals. They have the added pressure of past letdowns that emphasize the importance of matches once they get out of the group stage. Obviously all of these matches are important, but there is more to it for Alejandro Sabella‘s squad. For some the round of 16 is the goal, but it cannot be for Argentina.

They are in a group with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria. They will have no trouble. Bosnia will give them the best match, but Argentina will finish at the top. It will be an extension of their CONMEBOL qualifying run. They finished with 35 goals and took nine wins out of 16 matches. Messi scored 10 goals while Gonzalo Higuain tallied nine times. It is this attacking power that will easily guide Argentina out of the group stage.

If there is a weakness it is on defense. Argentina has not shown an ability to regain possession quickly over the last few friendlies. Their possible opponent in the round of 16 is Ecuador. Ecuador’s pace is always threatening, and they have good finishers around the box. France or Switzerland are the other options in the round of 16. France has one of the best strikers in the world right now in Karim Benzema and one of the most creative midfielders in Paul Pogba. Xherdan Shaqiri, Tranquillo Barnetta and Josip Drmic would be Switzerland’s biggest threats to the Argentina back line.

For Argentina the expectations are high, and they will meet or exceed them in the group stage. The attacking power will take them far. It is the defense that will be challenged in the round of 16, and this is when the pressure really starts.

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.


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