RIO DE JANEIRO: Argentina embark on an expected breeze through World Cup Group F on Sunday against a talented if inexperienced Bosnia side playing in the finals for the first time. The sides meet at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro where Lionel Messi’s side, boasting one of the world’s best attacks, will be hoping to return for the final on July 13 in search of their nation’s third world title. Messi scored his 38th Argentina goal in last week’s warm-up win over Slovenia, opponents chosen specifically with Bosnia in mind.
The Argentina captain will see it as a good omen as he looks to break a World Cup scoring hoodoo dating back to his 2006 debut in Germany and a goalless 2010 finals in South Africa. Messi appears in good shape and mood going into the tournament after a mixed season with hamstring problems and fewer goals than usual with a mere three for Argentina compared with the 13 he notched between June 2012 and June 2013.
Dzeko role: Striker Gonzalo Higuain, the other member of Argentina’s ‘Fab-Four’ strike force, played the first half of Thursday’s practice for the reserves in a role coach Alejandro Sabella expects Bosnia danger man Edin Dzeko to play. With Higuain having recovered from a left ankle problem, Argentina should be at full strength against Bosnia in a group which also contains Nigeria and Iran. Bosnia coach Safet Susic, known for his penchant for attacking football, is likely to deploy a more conservative formation against Argentina with top scorer Dzeko as the lone striker operating in front of a five-man midfield.
Having qualified for their first major tournament as an independent nation, Bosnia could not have asked for a tougher first appearance on the biggest stage. The magnitude of the task has left Susic pondering how to use versatile midfielder Muhammad Besic, whose designated role was to man-mark Messi. Susic hinted he was prepared to make a tactical U-turn.
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