Argentinian captain Lionel Messi has recorded an immediate impact on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring the winning goal in his nation’s impressive 2-1 campaign-opening victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Estadio Maracana this morning.
Unable to find the back of the net once in Argentina’s disappointing tilt at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Messi needed just 65 minutes to officially open his account in Brazil; overcoming several missed free kicks and open play opportunities to successfully finish off a solo effort from just outside the Bosnian 18-yard box.
Opening their Group F match in the best way possible, Argentina took control of the ball from the match’s very first kick, immediately charging towards the goal of Asmir Begovic and laying immense pressure which eventually resulted in an unlucky own goal just three minutes in, when a deflected Messi cross struck the inside leg of Bosnian defender Sead Kolasinac and veered into the bottom corner over the net; adding salt to the wounds in registering as the fastest own-goal in World Cup history.
Fighting back with class, Bosnia produced several legitimate chances however were unable to find gun striker Edin Dzeko in space, arriving at the half-time whistle 1-0 in the red, however arguably creating the best chances and most consistent football throughout the first period.
Returning from the break in far-more convincing form, the Argentinians again burst from the gates after coach Alejandro Sabella introduced experienced pair Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago for Maxi Rodriguez and Hugo Campanaro, in turn reverting to their previously proven 4-3-3 structure.
Bosnia again began to lift in form, guided by an impressive performance on the left flank from Vedad Ibisevic, however Argentina also began to find Messi more and in competitive position, eventually resulting in an impressive solo performance typical of the little maestro’s weekly performances for club side Barcelona; claiming the ball around 30 yards from Begovic’s goal and beating four players before his fiery shot glanced the near post and buried into the side net.
Continuing to press for a sealing goal, Argentina were unlucky not to convert one of several proceeding chances, and when Ibisevic clawed one back for Bosnia just five minutes from fulltime, the Argentinian faithful were forced to wait heart-in-mouth for the final whistle to sound.
In claiming the 2-1 victory over fellow-progression favourites Bosnia & Herzegovina, Argentina move to the top of Group F on 3 points, while the Bosnian’s will need results against Nigeria and Iran to progress in their first appearance in a World Cup finals.
Nigeria and Iran will open their 2014 FIFA World Cup accounts tonight, kicking-off at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba at 5a.m EST; a match for which Nigeria are currently favourites at a generous quote of $2.10 at leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au.