Argentina has hands full with Bosnia

Lionel Messi in action for Argentina. (Eduardo Di Baia/AP)
June 15, 2014, 7:27 AM

Day Four of the 2014 FIFA World Cup features a tasty Group F battle between tournament debutantes Bosnia and Herzegovina and Argentina.

These two nations are pegged by many pundits to top this group, so it’s vital that either side records a win in order to create a gap over the other favourite.

In Group E, France faces Honduras and Switzerland takes on Ecuador in the early affair on Sunday.

Here are three keys to the matches.


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Swiss must be wary of quick Ecuadorian attack

Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld has a reputation for being a defensive guru. It’s evident the way his Swiss side play. They’re very organized whether they have possession or are defending, but they’ll be put to the test against a fast and furious Ecuadorian attack.

Switzerland is the slight favourite for the match and will have control of possession, but that’s fine for Ecuador. In their pre-tournament friendly against England, the South Americans exposed The Three Lions on the counter and sent a message to the rest of Group E that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s up to the projected Swiss backline of Ricardo Rodriguez, Steve von Bergen, Fabian Schar, and Stephan Lichtsteiner to nullify those opportunities.

Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner are coming off fantastic seasons for their clubs and are tireless fullbacks that will be able to keep up with the pace of Ecuador. Von Bergen is a more traditional defender who’s solid in the air, while Schar will be the more mobile centre-back who can snuff out the danger on the ground.

The Napoli duo of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami play in a counter-attacking system under Rafa Benitez, so they’ll be useful playing against a team such as Ecuador.

French midfield will fill void of Ribery

Franck Ribery not playing for France at the World Cup is a blow, but it isn’t as much of a problem as some are making it out to be.

Obviously, Ribery’s technique, work rate and vision will be missed out wide, but all of those qualities, plus many other attributes, can be found in the midfield.

France’s midfield is one of the most balanced in the tournament. PSG’s Blaise Matuidi is a terrific box-to-box player who is capable of contributing to both sides of the pitch. Juventus’ Paul Pogba is turning heads at 21 years old and is already one of the most complete midfielders in Europe. Last but not least, Yohan Cabaye, who’s versatile and has that vision that Les Bleus are missing in Ribery.

Those three players will be the key to success not just against Honduras, but also throughout the World Cup. They should be able to boss the opening match.

Can familiarity benefit Argentina’s defence?

There’s no denying that Argentina’s attack is arguably the most talented. It’s the reason why La Albiceleste are one of the World Cup favourites. However, questions remain about their defence.

Manager Alejandro Sabella doesn’t have a lot to choose from at goalkeeper, with Monaco backup Sergio Romero likely to get the nod. The backline of Marcos Rojo, Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernandez, and Pablo Zabaleta have played practically every match together for the last two years. It’s not a terrible defence, but Rojo and Fernandez don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

Rojo’s best role is at centre-back, so he’s the weak link out of the four. Fernandez is decent, but rarely starts for Napoli. On the other hand, the fact that all four have played together dozens of times could make up for the lack in quality in some areas. It’ll be needed with Bosnia’s Miralem Pjanic feeding striker Edin Dzeko, who’ll try to expose any area they can.

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