A classic European, South American encounter. The group F opener between Argentina and Bosnia Herzegovina promised to be an entertaining game primarily because of the quality of the players both teams parade. Equally, it is the tournament where the magical Lionel Messi, the first player to win four FIFA/Ballon d’Or, would prove his mettle at the biggest world stage and perhaps win the trophy that has eluded him. As the two teams stepped out into the breathtaking Maracana stadium, the world waited in expectation of another thrilling encounter in this World Cup flowing with goals.
The game kicked off with Argentina keeping possession well, then Sergio Aguero was brought down at the edge of the box on the 3rd minute and the resulting free kick taken by Messi was bundled in for an own goal by Kolasinac. A perfect start for the Argentines. Bosnia started to get in the game, attacking with intent and seeking out their striker; Edin Dzeko at every opportunity.
A great looping ball into the box from Pjanic found Hajrovic, who couldn’t touch it away from the onrushing Romero, who pushed the ball away. Mascherano’s pass from deep found Messi in the box but he was crowded out by the Bosnian defence. A foul by Marcos Rojo of Argentina got him the first yellow card of the game and the resulting free kick was again dealt with by the Argentine defence. The Bosnians, playing in their first world cup appearance, were giving a good account of themselves and the diminutive Pjanic was clearly their stand out player.
A corner kick won by the enterprising Hajrovic on the 40th minute presented an opportunity for a Lulic header which was saved by Romero, the Argentine keeper. A poor half for the Argentines but they lead 1:0 at half time.
The second half started with an Argentine change as Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain came on for Hugo Campagnaro and Maxi Rodriguez respectively. A free kick by Hajrovic was well saved by the alert Romero. The much vaunted Argentine attack was struggling as the Bosnians began to control the game. The Bosnians were brilliantly cutting off all the moves by Messi and company and making them sweat. Messi’s bad game continued with a free kick in a good position blown over the bar. He however exploded in the 65th minute with his trademark dribbling run, evading defenders and scored his second World Cup goal, breaking his duck since his first goal in 2006. Argentina 2: Bosnia 0; a wonderful goal to light up the night.
The teeming Argentina supporters came alive and the eleven began to play with some joy. Bosnia replaced Mujdza and Hajrovic with Ibisevic and Visca as they sought to inject some energy into the game. Bosnia shortly made their final change pulling off Mismovic for Medunjanin.
Another run by Messi on the counter, looked a certain goal but the Bosnian defence managed to intercept the ball. Against the run of play, an attacking move found Ibisevic, who slid the ball in on the 85th minute, scoring Bosnia’s first World Cup goal. Argentina brought on Biglia for Aguero as they sought to contain the Bosnians who had started to press for an equaliser. Despite their valiant efforts however, the goal did not come.
The game ended Argentina 2: Bosnia 1; a vital 3 points for Argentina, who despite their failings, look set to clinch the top spot in the group. Watch out, Iran and Nigeria, Messi is back.