Argentina V Belgium is the only contest in which a South American side is pitted against a European team in the 2014 World Cup quarter finals. Lionel Messi inspired Argentina will be keen to join Brazil in the semi finals, while Belgium will fancy their chances to become the second European side after Germany in the last 4. Argentina and Belgium are coming into this match with an all win record. Their quarter final berth was booked after a hard fought extra time victory in the Last 16.
Belgium had the upper hand in the game against USA and will fancy their chances against Argentina in Brasilia. Argentina on the other hand had to wait till the 118th minute before breaking the Switzerland resilience. Argentinians will be hoping that Lionel Messi will once again help them to get the better of their opposition. As both sides prepare for this crucial fixture, THT analyses the key battles which will decide the outcome of this Argentina V Belgium game.
Lionel Messi V Axel Witsel
Lionel Messi hasn’t performed like this in the last two World Cup’s and his fine form is the reason behind Argentina’s slim hopes of lifting the World Cup. Diego Maradona had stated that Argentina are over reliant on Lionel Messi and it was evident in all the matches. The number 10, has risen to the occasion and is constant thorn in opposition defences through out the tournament. Apart from scoring 4 goals, his creativity and dribbling abilities are the highlights of Argentina’s campaign so far. Playing behind the strikers, Lionel Messi will be up against Belgium’s deep lying playmaker and defensive midfielder Axel Witsel.
Axel Witsel sits in-front of the back four for Belgium and he is the one who builds the Belgium attacks and dictates the tempo of the game. As he is up-against an inform Lionel Messi, he needs to concentrate more on marking Lionel Messi, as leaving him against the likes of Daniel Van Buyten and Vincent Kompany will be accident waiting to happen. Axel Witsel can expect support from Mourane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele, but it will be primarily his responsibility to stop the Argentine captain in his tracks.
Javier Mascherano V Kevin De Bruyne
Javier Mascherano is the most important cog in this Argentine set-up after their mercurial captain. The defensive midfielder has shielded a porous defence to an extent and he needs to deliver a stand out performance if Argentina are to go through at t he expense of a rampaging Belgium side. Argentina’s defensive vulnerabilities are a known fact in the football world, and the main reason why opposition fails to break that is Javier Mascherano.
An enterprising Kevin De Bruyne and company are up against the Barcelona player in a battle to open up Argentine defence. Kevin De Bruyne has so far been the best performer for Belgium in this World Cup. He is the creative force, and he is responsible for releasing the Belgium forwards and wingers behind the Argentina defence. If Kevin De Bruyne finds his rhythm, Argentine are likely to loose the midfield battle.
Pablo Zabaleta V Eden Hazard
Argentina’s most reliable defender is Pablo Zabaleta. Manchester City right back will be up against the pace and trickery of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard when Argentina locks horns with Belgium. Zabaleta’s surges forward will be crucial in pinning the Belgian back in his own half. Also, Zabaleta needs to careful about conceding the ground, as Belgium has a lot of pace to exploit the open spaces.
Eden Hazard is coming into this match after failing to live up to his expectations. His form and performances are an area of concern for Belgium, but if he finds his rhythm it will be worth the wait. Eden Hazard has the pace and trickery to trouble any defence and if he can get the better of Pablo Zabaleta, the Argentine defence will be shredded into pieces by Belgium.
Even though Argentina possess the best player on the pitch in Lionel Messi, Belgium are a team to reckon with and are tipped to take the game to the South Americans. If the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and co. gets going it will be very difficult to keep a check on the waves of Belgium attacks. Belgium on the other hand needs to keep a close check on Lionel Messi, we won’t be surprised if Marc Wilmots instructs two or more players to keep a check on the Argentina captain.