Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
2014 World Cup
June 15 | 3 pm ET | Estadio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
TV: ESPN, Univision in US, CBC in Canada
Along with hosts Brazil, Argentina are heavy favorites to lift the World Cup on their home continent, but first must get through a harder-than-it-looks group that starts with first time qualifiers Bosnia and Herzegovina. On paper, the Bosnians should be the toughest team in the group, and they are led by talented front line backed by an improved defense.
THE MYSTERY OF MESSI: How do you cope with the burden of carrying the hopes of 41 million people on your shoulders? It's not an easy question to answer, and in Lionel Messi's case, we've seen a wide variety of behaviors. Much has been made recently of the fact that he often can't help but throw up prior to Argentina games, yet he also seems to be enjoying himself with this balancing act during his coach's team talk:
Whatever form his nerves take, he'll have to put it aside once he steps onto the field in one of soccer's legendary stadiums – he is surrounded by exceptional talent, but this is his team to lead and the expectation is clear: lift the World Cup.
CLUB AND COUNTRY: Sunday's match could see one direct matchup between Manchester City teammates as Dzeko attempts to get the better of Argentina defenders Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta. Demichelis and Dzeko have spent the entire year training and playing together, and likely know each other's tendencies as well as anyone on the field.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The defense is a focus for both teams, but for different reasons. As strong as Argentina are attack and midfield, questions about their defense persist, especially on the left side where they are using center back Marcos Rojo, and when it comes to set pieces.
Bosnia's shift has been towards helping an underwhelming backline, with head coach Safet Susic opting for a more defensively sound 4-2-3-1 formation. It takes away from some of their attacking potency, but if playmaker Miralem Pjanic can link up with Dzeko and the likes of winger Senad Lulic further up the field, they could be in with a shout.
RIGHT AT HOME: This match, along with the two Group E matches tomorrow, will be some of the first to put to the test the common theory that teams from the Western Hemisphere have an advantage in dealing with the travel times and climate in Brazil. Colombia demolished Greece on Saturday, and Bosnia must worry about similarly coming apart, especially late in the game when fatigue starts to take its toll.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Angel di Maria, midfielder, Argentina: We've talked about Messi already, so let's get to his partner in crime from the other side of Spain's great rivalry. Di Maria is inaruguably one of the top wingers in the world today, and could be vital in stretching and unlocking an organized Bosnian backline.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Sead Kolasinac, defender, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Matching up against Di Maria for parts of the match could be 20-year-old left back Sead Kolasinac, who is also first choice in that position for German giants Schalke 04. It will be a big ask for the German-born youngster, who represented that country at the youth level before switching allegiances to the country of his parents' birth, but he is unlikely to be asked to do a whole lot going forward and can focus on his immense defensive duties.