Argentina and Belgium come into their quarterfinal matchup after resorting to extra time to defeat their Round of 16 opponents. Argentina were able to put away Switzerland in the 118th minute off an Angel di Maria goal while Belgium relied on Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to put away the USA.
Lionel Messi has basically carried his team to this point, having a hand in almost all of his teams’ goals. Belgium have seen their six goals scored by six different players. Will it be the team or the star that advances on Saturday?
SABELLA UNDER FIRE: Even though some call him the best player in the world, should Messi really have to do it all himself? There's plenty of talent on Argentina, including Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi. But those three players have contributed little to help Messi as Alejandro Sabella has struggled to find the right mix. Can he get it right against Belgium?
WILMOTS TAKES NOTES: Marc Wilmots has noticed this trend, making Argentina easier to defend against. He knows that his Belgian team is not favored against the South American side, but he says there is a lack of balance in the Albiceleste that the Red Devils will feel they can explot.
MARADONA VS. BELGIUM: Messi will be looking to do what Diego Maradona did against Belgium in 1986. These same two teams met in the semifinals of that tournament. Maradona, much as he did in the rest of that tournament, scored two goals against the Red Devils to lead Argentina to the Final. This was after the two teams also met in the 1982 tournament, producing one of the most iconic photos ever taken with six Belgians chasing Maradona.
STORIED HISTORY?: Despite being one of the most well respected teams in the world, Argentina are stuck. They have been knocked out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals in three of the last four tournaments and in the fourth they didn’t make it past the group stage. They actually haven’t won a tournament of any kind since the 1993 Copa America. Is this finally the tournament the Albiceleste can capture the title?
STRIKER CONUNDRUM: Romelu Lukaku failed to impress in his first two starts of the World Cup against Algeria and Russia, so much so that he was subbed off early in each of them. Divock Origi came on against the Russians and scored the game-winner. Then Lukaku came on for Origi against the US and contributed to both of his team’s goals. So who do you start against Argentina if you are Wilmots, Lukaku or Origi?
Things that are not fair: Being able to bring on Romelu Lukaku to start extra time.— SB Nation Soccer (@SBNationSoccer) July 1, 2014
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Lionel Messi, forward, Argentina – This will be his tournament if he wants it to be. This game could add another chapter to the Messi mythology.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Axel Witsel, midfielder, Belgium – He hasn’t made any big plays in this tournament so far, but don’t let that fool you, Witsel can change a game at any moment.