Some match practice for Argentinians

La Albiceleste take on lowly Iran

Some match practice for Argentinians

Having already bettered his last World Cup with a nerve-easing first goal in Argentina's opener, Lionel Messi should lead his countrymen to an easy win against unheralded Iran here on Saturday.

Argentina started with a five-man defence in their 2-1 defeat of Bosnia but coach Alejandro Sabella should toss off the shackles and start with the players’ preferred 4-3-3 against one of the tournament’s most limited teams.

That tactical switch during the Bosnia game freed up Messi, and others in Argentina's “Fab Four” attackers, enabling the four-times world player of the year to score a dazzling goal that was his first at a World Cup in eight years.

“Messi could be the best player in the world -- if he was human,” quipped awestruck Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, saying his charges would need a “miracle” to beat Argentina.Iran may take heart from history, though.

In their sole prior meeting, Iran did secure a 1-1 draw with Argentina over 90 minutes during a 1977 match in Madrid -- albeit they then lost on penalties in a low-key mini-tournament to celebrate Real Madrid’s 75th anniversary.

Asia’s best-ranked side at 43rd in the FIFA standings, Iran showed their vaunted defensive abilities in a 0-0 opening draw against Nigeria against Group F.

That game brought jeers from Brazilian spectators otherwise gorged on goals in the tournament, but delighted Iran who earned their first World Cup clean sheet, and only sixth ever point, in four World Cup appearances since 1978.

If Argentina win on Saturday, they will top Group F on six points and guarantee passage to the last sixteen.

At the other end, Iran's tricky winger Ashkan Dejagah and lone striker Reza Ghoochannejhad may not see much of the ball, but when they do, will be dreaming of prising open an Argentine defence lacking the brilliance of their strike force.
Probable teams:

Argentina: 1-Sergio Romero; 4-Pablo Zabaleta; 2-Ezequiel Garay; 16-Marcos Rojo; 17-Federico Fernandez; 5-Fernando Gago; 7-Angel Di Maria; 14-Javier Mascherano; 9-Gonzalo Higuain; 10-Lionel Messi; 20-Sergio Aguero.

Iran: 12-Alireza Haghighi; 15-Pejman Montazeri; 4-Jalal Hosseini; 5-Amir Sadeghi; 23-Mehrdad Pooladi; 3-Ehsan Hajsafi; 6-Javad Nekounam; 14-Andranik Teymourian; 21-Ashkan Dejagah; 16-Reza Ghoochannejhad; 2-Khosro Heydari.

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