Messi’s lack of goals no worry for Argentina
Johannesburg: As Lionel Messi dazzles fans with his skills while waiting for his first goal of this World Cup, a marvellous complement of strikers is carrying Argentina forward.
Carlos Tevez made his scoring bow in Argentina’s fourth win of the tournament when they beat Mexico 3-1 in the second round on Sunday and Gonzalo Higuain took his tally to four, making him top scorer at the finals so far.
“I needed a match like this to restate that I’m in form, that I have hunger for glory with this shirt,” said Tevez after an opening goal that appeared to be offside and a sublime 25-metre drive that effectively ended Mexican hopes.
When the strikers are not scoring -- and Messi, playing deep to escape tight marking, has come within a whisker at least once in each of the four matches -- there have been set pieces to secure the goals.
Coach Diego Maradona put out what he called his ‘gala team’ and he will be looking to do the same against Germany in Cape Town for Saturday’s quarter-final (1830 GMT) though that may imply changes.
“We have to try to find the best team, the ‘gala team’ to play against Germany,” he said of the nation he faced as captain in successive finals, winning in 1986 but losing four years later.
Germany and Argentina are the highest scoring teams in the tournament. The Germans took their tally to nine when they beat England 4-1 on Saturday and Argentina increased theirs to 10.
Argentina’s goals-to-chances ratio, however, makes up for some deficiencies in defence where left back Gabriel Heinze twice came to the rescue clearing Mexican efforts off the line.
Argentina have controlled their matches while wobbling at the back and a question mark hangs over young goalkeeper Sergio Romero, one of four Olympic gold medal winners in the team.
“I didn’t like giving the ball (to Mexico) so much in the second half when they don’t have the skill we have,” Maradona said at the post-match news conference.
“If we’d grabbed the ball the match would have been more tranquil and we could have increased the score.”
To that end he sent on midfelder Juan Sebastian Veron to help captain Javier Mascherano in the ball-winning and holding department but still the speed of the Mexican forwards had Argentina in constant trouble if not outright danger.
Germany’s young side showed against England how quickly they can break on the counter-attack and Maradona knows Argentina’s midfield will therefore have to concentrate more on protecting the defence if his team are to reach the semi-finals.