Argentina confidently outplayed Poland (2:0) and advanced to the playoffs. A gap of just two goals and intrigue until the middle of the second half is the merit of the grandiose Wojciech Schensny. The Polish keeper pulled out a penalty in the second match in a row, to which he added 8 more saves.
In terms of play, there was an abyss between the teams. 73% on 27% in possession, 36% action in the Polish third vs. 12% in the Argentinean third, 20-2 on shots from the box, 3.69 on 0.32 xG.
On the one hand, Argentina frolicked against the backdrop of a completely unconvincing Poland. On the other hand, this is what total domination looks like – it is interesting to understand its nature. Check this article Torment in the attack. Argentina beat Mexico unconvincingly.
A bunch of Messi-Acuña is the main weapon of Argentina. She could have destroyed Poland in the first half
Do you remember the Messi-Alba connection, in which Leo makes an elegant throw from his favorite zone in the right half, and Jordi masterfully chooses the moment to open into the penalty area?
Yesterday Leo arranged a similar connection with Marcos Acuña. In the first half, the whole game of Argentina was built around this technique. At such moments, Piotr Zielinski had to work out for Acuna, or transfer him to Matty Cash. It’s more efficient to work all the way, rather than pass since Messi perfectly catches opponents at the moment of passing and passes at the most inconvenient moment. The Napoli midfielder did not always have time to go down as a fifth defender in the line, hence there was a regular threat.
Argentina in the first half was dominant but predictable. With proper implementation, they could smash the opponent already at this stage, but they constantly tried to repeat the same technique. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when the reception is tied to Messi, who is able to throw such a high quality and regularly even under pressure from 2-3 opponents.
Argentina’s second goal is a hidden masterpiece. 37 passes!
In the second goal, Argentina skillfully shook up the Polish defense – they made 37 passes before the goal. This is a new World Cup record. For context, there were 24 assists in Esteban Cambiasso’s legendary goal against Serbia.
The ability to build a game around the qualities of Messi is something that Argentina has always shown under Scaloni. Not always successful, but always moving in that direction. Yesterday’s performance is so impressive because it included a team tuned to Messi, and the opponent was punished for concentrating on Messi and his favorite technique. Yes, yes, the only rivals are unconvincing Poland, but it looks like a serious step forward.
Mac Allister and Alvarez are hidden heroes. How cool that they scored
It is ironic that it was the players who most actively insured Messi’s flaws in defense that brought a key victory to Argentina.
Mac Allister backed Leo when he rested during the pressure. Di Maria and Alvarez start the pressure, Leo could be responsible for the defensive midfielder Belik, but he has a smoke break – it’s not scary, since Mac Allister insures. Alvarez often sat in the position of Messi in the diamond in positional defense, which allowed Leo to slowly return back.
Small but important details for balance. In terms of off-the-ball play, Mac Allister and Alvarez have long seemed like Leo’s optimal allies. Now they have shown themselves in the attack, which increases the chances of seeing them again.
Australia is in the playoffs for Argentina. The opponent is very similar to Poland – both in terms of readiness to field the bus and in the starting pattern (4-4-2 with transitions to 5-4-1). The match looks like a chance to consolidate the techniques shown yesterday and prepare for more difficult tasks.