Argentina will face Iran in their second group stage match of the World Cup tomorrow. They won their first game 2-1 against a tough Bosnia and Herzegovina while Iran drew 0-0 against Nigeria. One side needs the win more than the other, but defeating Leo Messi and the favorites will be Iran’s toughest task thus far.
Messi tried to take on Bosnia himself and actually succeeded on the one occasion where he dribbled past plenty before scoring his second ever World Cup goal. He did use his teammates for assistance, but as the captain he tried too many things on his own. Against Iran, he needs to pass the ball a bit more in order for his side to strike three or four goals against an unready defense.
Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero will prove to be too much in addition to Messi in a game where Iran will be forced to defend for the majority of the 90 minutes, as there is too much pace, skill and intelligence against them.
Javier Mascherano was pushing the ball in the friendlies with beautiful long passes to teammates on the wings. Now, he sits back and defends, lacking that same presence he did before the World Cup. Tomorrow, he can push up a bit to make sure the team has what it needs up top. After all, he is a midfielder before anything else.
Iran will rely on Ashkan Dejagah for offense, the midfielder who scored some sweet goals for Fulham in the Premier League last season. He tried to be a factor in the first game against Nigeria but he was quickly closed down. Against Argentina, he will have to use his teammates more as he cannot do it all on his own. He gets tired quickly which is why he was subbed off in the first game. He needs to be brave against the Argentinians in order to create chances.
The Iranian defense will have to hold even firmer this time around as they will be the busier of the two back lines. On set pieces, their center backs will have to push with the hopes of stealing a goal or two. This is one of Argentina’s weakest points as they do get caught out at times, so taking advantage of this is a must.
Prediction: Argentina 3, Iran 0
The South Americans will cruise to this victory while their opponents will miss a few quiet chances.