Russia vs Argentina: 5 talking points
Sergio Aguero saved Argentina's beacon with a goal in the dying embers as Argentina beat Russia 1-0 at the Lukhiki stadium in their first international game since qualifying for the World Cup.
With a near full-strength team, manager Jorge Sampaoli put out one of the best line-ups he could, but is sure to head back to the drawing board after watching his side huff and puff in what should've been a routine win otherwise.
Russia, the hosts for next year's showpiece, gave a poor account of themselves and might want to buck up a little before the Spanish fiesta on Tuesday. Here are the major talking points from the international friendly.
#1 Argentina aren't a finished article yet
Just until last month, La Albiceleste were staring down the very real prospect of missing out on the World Cup finals for the first time in 40 years, had it not been for the Argentinian thaumaturge Lionel Messi to step up and hand an all-important victory on the final matchday with a blistering hat-trick. The knives drawn out on Sampaoli's band of busted flushes had to be pulled in after that magical night in Quito, but it seems the danger isn't all over yet.
Even though they weren't at full strength, the visitors boasted the likes of Messi, Aguero, Angel di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Romero in their starting line-up, a grand total of six regulars of the team. Yet, the struggles were worrying.
Argentina's star-studded attack had a hard time in getting a whiff of the net, as some diligent defending and fine goalkeeping denied them time and again. The unusual midfield pivot of Giovani Lo Celso, Matias Kranevitter and Enzo Perez may need more time to develop an understanding as Sampaoli's experimental set-up stuttered to keep the creative juices flowing.
Though Argentina weren't as bad as they've been on several occasions this year during the qualifiers, there were expectations of a rebuild since clinching the World Cup that supposedly breathed a new life into them. However, they remain an unfinished article.