World Cup 2018: 3 things we learned from Argentina's group games
After all the drama involving the teams from Group D, Argentina will join Croatia as the second team to qualify from the so called 'Group of Death'.
After some lackluster performances in their first two World Cup group fixtures, Argentina put up a brilliant display of football against Nigeria at Saint Petersburg winning the decisive game by a 2-1 margin.
It was skipper Lionel Messi who broke the deadlock in the 14th minute only to be equalized by a Victor Moses penalty in the 51st minute.
A brilliant Marcos Rojo strike just four minutes before the end earned them a spot in the Round of 16 where they will meet France on June 30 at Kazan. Let us now look at three things we have learned from their Group stage matches.
#3 Sampaoli's backfired tactics
Sampaoli's tactics of employing the 3-4-1-2 formation for the game against Croatia backfired as the defenders were left clueless by the Croat's brilliance.
Sampaoli who employed the much favoured 4-2-3-1 against Iceland in the opening group fixture was blamed for experimenting with the 3-4-1-2 formation against Croatia.
With Marcos Rojo not at the heart of the defense, Argentina suffered an embarrassing 0-3 defeat against Croatia. Argentina though, enjoyed a good result in the 4-4-2 formation against the African side, Nigeria.
Dropping Romero from the World Cup squad and deploying an inefficient Willy Caballero turned out to be nightmare, as his goal-keeping errors against the Croatians took the game from Argentina.
It was obvious that after Caballero's blunder (which led to Ante Rebic opening the scores for Croatia in the 53rd minute), Argentina looked completely clueless. That probably set the tone for the Croatians who doubled their lead through a 'Modric magic' in the 80th minute.
Caballero had no answers to that screamer from the Los Blancos star who was undoubtedly Croatia's hero that night. An injury-time Ivan Rakitic strike further highlighted the Argentine goal keeper's woes in front of the goal.
It is still surprising as to why Jorge Sampaoli is not utilizing the full potential of Juventus star, Paulo Dybala. The 24 year old attacking midfielder deserves more playing time to prove himself at the biggest stage of all.
Dybala did not play the game against Iceland, though he was on the bench. In the second fixture against Croatia, he came on very late in the second half. It wasn't enough for him to showcase his talent as the the situation was more pressure demanding.
It is obvious that many of Sampaoli's tactics have backfired in this World Cup and the case of Dybala (less play time) is one of the them.
Having netted 22 goals and made 5 assists in the Serie A last season, he guided Juventus to their seventh successive Italian league title. A great play maker, Dybala is good at taking set-pieces, long range shots and dribbling.
If there is one player who can ease off the pressure on Lionel Messi, then it has to be Dybala. Talented players like him need to start or at least have more play time in the knockouts for Argentina.