Scotland vs Argentina

Scotland vs Argentina Preview: No Wiggle Room For Kerr

Context, they say, is everything.

On paper, Scotland’s first foray into World Cup football looks encouraging: a couple of two-one defeats against top-ten-in-the-world opposition and the chance to qualify for the Round of 16 with a good result against Argentina on Wednesday.

But scratch the surface and there are worrying tendencies which put something of a dampener on proceedings in France. In both games, Scotland rolled over in the first half, giving up two goals, one of which was a (admittedly soft) penalty. In both games, there were tactical tweaks which saw Scotland come out stronger in the second half.

And in both games, there were late goals: too late to change the course of the result. Going into their final group game, Scotland will have to avoid following the same trajectory if they are to make it into the knock-out stage of this tournament. Read More

England vs Argentina

England vs Argentina Preview: Can The Lionesses Hit Their Stride?

It wasn’t perfect, but England’s performance against Scotland saw them over the line in the end. Phil Neville’s side have never been a afforded a better chance to win a World Cup, with a squad packed with experience and quality likely to threaten any opponent.

They showed as much in the first half in Nice, leading 2-0 by the break thanks to goals from Nikita Parris and Ellen White; but an opportunity missed by Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert just before half time and a disallowed strike by Beth Mead 30 seconds after galvanised Shelley Kerr and her team.

As the Lionesses tired and became sloppy, Scotland grew in confidence, halving the deficit late on and going close to grabbing a draw. England head into Friday’s clash with Argentina expected to win comfortably once again, but they certainly must improve in some areas if they are to dominate the game in the way that they should. Read More

Argentina vs Japan Preview

Argentina vs Japan Preview: Lack of experience to cost La Albiceleste

To say Argentina’s road to the World Cup was rocky would be an understatement. They were already treading on dangerously uneven territory when the long-winded route started to present obstacles at every turn, each of them incremental in the level of fatality and casting a semi-permanent shadow over their hopes of navigating it successfully.

Even before a third-placed finish in the 2018 Copa América hindered their chances of direct qualification, there was a bigger battle taking place outside the confines of a football stadium. Following long-standing issues with the federation regarding their (lack of) support, the players went on strike, seeking better pay and working conditions.

Argentina were so underfunded that they did not play a single international match nor had any staff after the 2015 Pan American Games through to the end of 2017. That was when they regrouped, and through the Copa América they overcame Panama in a rugged Concacaf-Conmebol play-off which finished 5-1 on aggregate. And so, after a 12-year absence, Argentina have returned to the world’s biggest stage. Read More

World Cup 2018, Last 16 Review

While we had been producing daily reviews during the group stage, in the first knock-out round we had writers covering every match so it wasn’t necessary. You can find our ‘Round of 16’ collection here, and we’ll just take a quick look at some of the overall top performers here.

The Sergios dominated at the top of the charts; Ramos of Spain earned the most points in total, whereas Aguero of Argentina topped the points per minute ladder.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed something in Ramos’ dashboard – namely a penalty scored in the shootout. These go into the players’ tallies, so anyone whose side didn’t settle their tie in 120 minutes can have a bit of an advantage here.

Unless they miss that is. Right, Jordan?

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France 4-3 Argentina: Messi’s World Cup dream is over

Despite scoring three goals in a knockout stage match, the World Cup dream has ended for Lionel Messi and his country. Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Mercado and Sergio Aguero all found the back of the net but a powerful France side were too much for the Albiceleste.

For the fourth time at the FIFA World Cup, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli set out a different eleven with a different formation altogether. This time, he benched both Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, robbing the team of any real threat in and around the penalty area as Lionel Messi was supposed to play the false number nine role. While hindsight may be 20/20, it ended up failing.

Starting the match without a real out-and-out striker may have cost Argentina, especially when combined with the defensive fragility of the team. Lionel Messi played in the false number nine role yet despite coming on as a second half substitute, Sergio Aguero measured higher than him on the Twelve leaderboard. The Manchester City man finished second overall in Argentinean players behind Gabriel Mercado.

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What next for the young Super Eagles?

Now the dust has settled and the pang of Marcos Rojo 86th minute volley is less harrowing, there remains the question what next for the young Super Eagles side.

It was instructive to see the vortex of opinions and hot-takes for the reason the Super Eagles were ousted from the World Cup. The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, blamed it on Gernot Rohr’s inability to manage the game.

“We lost the match due to poor technical judgment which failed to inject necessary changes to compliment (sic) the effort of the team that was under last minute pressure,” the Minister tweeted.

However, coach Rohr said the team lost because of its inexperience. “We were very fantastic and just within a few minutes of going through, we lost because we lacked the big match experience. Most of the Argentines are Champions League stars, who know how to exert pressure to get a desired result.”

Most would disagree, preferring to hang Odion Ighalo to the blame-shaped pike. The striker missed two gilt-edged chances in the match against Argentina. He was one-on-one against Franco Armani from an acute angle in the 83rd minute but hit couldn’t bury the chance.

The shot on target earned Ighalo 163 points on Twelve but most would have preferred he got the 1000 points from scoring a goal. His execution of the second chance was even poorer, rushing to hit a volley wide after Rojo got a touch on Ahmed Musa’s deflected cross. The more superstitious cursed the ill-luck of the dark green jersey.

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Nigeria 1-2 Argentina: Messi bailed out at last

One draw, one loss and one magical win were enough to see Argentina progress to the second round of the FIFA World Cup, in large part thanks to Lionel Messi, Ever Banega and Marcos Rojo. Still unsure as to whether it was coach Jorge Sampaoli or the players themselves which picked the starting eleven against Nigeria, all that can be said is whoever picked the team ensured it was better than what we saw against Croatia. Lionel Messi cannot do it alone, no player can, and the inclusion of midfielder Ever Banega helped in Messi seeing much of the ball.

Banega, who received his first ever start at a FIFA World Cup was arguably man of the match. Looking at Twelve’s overall leaderboard, there’s no surprise he was in the top three alongside Messi.

Taking a look at the graphic below, when in attack, Banega was everywhere and it all started with the lovely assist for Lionel Messi’s goal. A ball through the air found Messi who controlled the ball in a way only Messi can, and he finished with his right foot.

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World Cup 2018, Day 13 Review: Rojo saves the day

There were four more games at the World Cup today, and some of them even had something happen in them. Denmark vs France, however, was not one of them. The Danes had just four shots, with none in the box, and Didier Deschamps’ side’s three shots on target were all from over the hill and far away (or outside the penalty area, in other words).

Raphael Varane was the man of the match, but he did that with the second lowest points tally of an ‘MOTM’ at the tournament so far. While France had already qualified, they still put out a strong XI, but it made little difference.

The likes of Griezmann and Giroud picked up fewer attacking points than Kasper Schmeichel, which probably says a lot. As does the fact that none of the top 11 performers in the match picked up any points for shots.

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Argentina 0-3 Croatia: Messi and Argentina outclassed by Croatia’s midfield

All eyes and pressure were on Lionel Messi and his Argentina team during their second group stage match against Croatia. Unfortunately for the little magician, it was his Barcelona team mate Ivan Rakitić and club rival Luka Modrić who stole the show.

Up against a very talented, hard working and organized Croatian side, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli was naïve enough to completely give up the midfield and put the emphasis on wing play which cost his team dearly. For a country (which historically speaking) has produced world class midfielders such as Juan Román Riquelme, Pablo Aimar, Fernando Redondo and Juan Sebastián Verón (to name but a few), it was frustrating to watch the team pull away from tradition and completely give away the middle of the pitch.

The midfield duo of Rakitić and Modrić gave Argentina a footballing lesson in how to control, press and dominate the game from midfield as if the Albiceleste were a country with no footballing past.


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World Cup 2018, Day 8 Review: Rampant Rakitic

As the days and games tick by, we continue to see teams sent home from the tournament. Thursday’s casualties were Peru, who followed their defeat to Denmark on Saturday with a 1-0 loss to France.

It was perhaps a little surprising they bit the dust so early. Many people had thought they could be dark horses at the tournament and do reasonably well, but for most that was probably based entirely on this clip rather than anything more concrete.

That goal was against Croatia too, but more on them shortly. Kylian Mbappe scored the goal which put Peru out, and he was the game’s top performer in our view. But to my mind it was Paul Pogba who deserves the accolades, as he had a key creative role in France’s two top quality chances.

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