World Cup newcomers Bosnia-Herzegovina have no plans to man-mark Lionel Messi during their World Cup opener versus Argentina.
Bosnia-Herzegovina reached its first World Cup by playing a brazen full-speed-ahead style of football that netted 30 goals in qualifying.
Sticking to that strategy in a big-stage premiere against Argentina would be bold – some would say foolish. But there’s a good chance that’s exactly what is in coach Safet Susic’s plans.
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Susic has a reputation of stubbornly adhering to his attacking strategy regardless of the opponent. Even against an Argentina team led by four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, there’s only so much he’s willing to tweak in his game plan.
”It is a dilemma for me, but to sacrifice a player just to man-mark Messi, I don’t think it would be good for us,” Safic said. ”I don’t think we have ever played a match having dedicated a player to man-mark a specific opponent, and it’s going to be the same,” against Argentina.
His words suggest the Group F opener Sunday in Rio de Janeiro could be an entertaining affair, with both teams going on the attack.
Argentina is chasing its third World Cup title with perhaps the strongest lineup of strikers in the tournament. Messi, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain together scored more than 100 goals for their club teams last season.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is likely to let either Lavezzi or Higuain join up with Messi and Aguero in a three-man attack, with Angel Di Maria surging from midfield to add even more firepower.
The Bosnians, too, have a powerful strike force in Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko – Aguero’s teammate at Manchester City.
Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay said his team will have to try to avoid giving away corner kicks and other dead-ball situations, when the Bosnians can profit from their height advantage.
If it gets to that situation, Garay said, ”we need to stay focused and each of us mark our man and know that they’re going to be dangerous.”
Bosnia played its first match as an independent nation in 1995 as its civil war ended following the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. It came close to qualifying both for the previous World Cup and the European Championship in 2012.
Nonetheless, 1978 and 1986 World Cup winner Argentina is heading into the match as the overwhelming favorite.
”While we respect our rivals and know that no match is easy, at the same time we are Argentina,” Garay said. ”And we play to win.”