How will Messi, Argentina break down France?


The military mind likes to preserve that “no plan ever saves first contact with the enemy.” Substitute “adversary” for “enemy” and we have a fair approximation of the situation Argentina Manager Lionel Scaloni has already faced them twice in his short coaching career.

One was in his team’s opening game World Cup. Argentina arrived in Qatar riding high on a 36-game unbeaten run based on a single concept — a patient, possession-oriented midfield would control the ball, bring Lionel Messi Entering the game regularly, many of them get close enough to the opposition goal to do serious damage.

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Saudi Arabia The World Cup gave Scaloni a rude awakening, with a ferocious high streak that forced Argentina into a game they weren’t comfortable with — and forced Scaloni to rethink. Since then there has been a lot of tinkering, almost all successful. If Messi is going to be more scattered, there needs to be more mobility up front — hence the introduction of the forward Julian Alvarez on the struggle Lautaro Martinez.

If the team cannot always control the ball, there will be times when it is advisable to switch to a back-three. Early contact with the opposition, then, forced the Argentine coach to come up with a variation on his theme.

Near the beginning of his reign, however, Scaloni had to do something more drastic. He had to drop the whole project. Appointed after the 2018 World Cup, initially on a supervisory basis, Scaloni served on the staff as an observer of the Argentine opposition. Which left the deepest impression France — the team that eliminated Argentina in the second round.

“France grabbed the ball and was in position to shoot within three or four seconds,” he said at his introductory news conference. “That’s the way football is going, it’s the football I love and the moment has come to introduce it in Argentina. We’re going to be more direct and vertical.”

the game


Rob Dawson previews the World Cup final between France and Argentina.

And his France-inspired Argentina was — predictably — a disaster. It wasn’t the game concept that suited Messi and the assets Scaloni had at his disposal. The first competitive match under the new regime was the opening match of the 2019 Copa America Columbia. Argentina were horrendous, stretched all over the pitch and easily went down to a 2-0 defeat. Scaloni’s plan clearly didn’t survive his first contact with the opponent — and the coach had the wisdom to back off. Argentina moved towards something more intelligent during the rest of the contest, sketching the possession-based style that has served them so well since.

And now comes the ultimate challenge. Scaloni is almost certainly expected to face off brazilor maybe spain or Germany In the semi-finals Croatia Came as a pleasant surprise; A team with a great midfield — Scaloni paid tribute to the Croatian captain Luke Modric and his team-mates after the match and admitted that the 3-0 scoreline was flattering La Albiceleste — but not a side with the firepower to pose the most serious questions to its defensive unit.

That changes now, and Argentina must face a devastating four if they are to win the title Kylian Mbappé The main attraction in a constellation of stars. How can Scaloni plan to win against a team he openly admires and perhaps fears? Previous games have shown evidence that France can attack. France manager Didier Deschamps will certainly be worried about the left side of his defense — where Mbappe is not far behind and a full-back to help. Theo Hernandez can be published.

A diligent reader of the game, Messi will spot and probe for weaknesses and surely Angel Di Maria will be exposed at some stage of the trial. Even less fully fit, in the last few minutes against the quarter-final The Netherlands, Di Maria lit up the game with both individual flashes and quick combinations with Messi. He wasn’t needed against Croatia, but will have an important role to play on the big day.

On the right, Messi and Di Maria look set to give Argentina their best chance of breaking the French ranks. But it’s a case of the old balancing act. How can Argentina land their own punches while avoiding haymakers from the opposition? They may be able to control the midfield for parts of the game, but at some point the French counter-attack will be exposed. How can the genius of Scaloni’s team not be overshadowed?

Centre-back Nico Otamendi and Christian Romero Will work on the limit — especially Romero, who gives Mbappe cover on the flanks of the fight. Will bring Scaloni back Lisandro Martinez And back to back three? He might be thinking of a defensive midfielder Guido Rodriguez — strangely included against the second game Mexico But perhaps more useful now. The Argentine coach will no doubt come up with some sort of plan, which leaves a tantalizing question; How well will it keep in touch with the world champions?


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