It took Argentina a long time to get going, but once they did, they did nothing to dissuade their status as one of the favorites of the 2014 World Cup with a business-like performance in a 2-1 victory Sunday over debutante Bosnia & Herzogovina at Estadio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
A third-minute own-goal and a touch of brilliance from Lionel Messi in the second half gave La Albiceleste all they needed in the Group F opener. An 84th-minute goal by Bosnia’s Vedad Ibisevic made things interesting late, but the equalizer never came.
MAGNIFICENT MESSI: It took until the second half for Messi to remind everyone why he’s one of the best on the planet. But when he did, he did it in typically masterful fashion. He turned a simple give-and-go in the 65th minute into a bit of individual brilliance, taking a back-heel pass from Gonzalo Higuaín, skirting past a handful of Bosnia-Herzegovina defenders on the edge of the box before firing a left-footed blast just beyond a defender and tucked neatly inside the near post.
ROUGH START FOR B-H: The World Cup debut for the Dragons got off to a nightmare start just three minutes in. Argentina’s Marcos Rojo headed a ball played in by Messi in relative harmless fashion, if not for the fact that it rebounded off the shin of Sead Kolasinac and into their own goal for an early 1-0 deficit.
ARGENTINA … ON DEFENSE? La Albiceleste came out in a formation few would have expected from the high-flying powerhouse that scored 35 goals in 16 qualifying games. They fielded five on the backline with Messi and Sergio Agüero up top in a 5-3-2 formation to mediocre attacking results. Outside of the own-goal, Argentina gave Bosnia-Herzegovina little worry in the attack through the first 45. At halftime, they shifted to four in the back with midfielder Fernando Gago replacing Hugo Campagnaro.
MISSED CHANCES: A game Bosnia-Herzegovina side had plenty of chances before Messi put the game out of reach, especially in the first half with Argentina oddly coming out with a defensive look. Their best chance at a first-half goal came when Senad Lulic snapped off a corner-kick header in the 41st minute that forced a diving save by Sergio Romero. Ibisevic, who played for a season at St. Louis University, gave Argentina palpations late, but they were able to salt away the victory with little trouble.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Messi, Argentina. A player of that quality can change the match in a matter of moments. And that’s just what he did with what was ultimately the game winner.