Formation surprise for Argentina?
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- The Cidade do Galo training complex was marked by uncertainty on Friday morning. First, the 15 minutes of Argentina's open training session revealed no clues about the team ahead of their opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday. Then, up to the very last moment, it was not even known who would take part in the news conference.
Once the second mystery was clarified, with the appearance of Federico and Augusto Fernandez in the press room, the answer to the first puzzle began to take shape. It was reported that Alejandro Sabella practiced with a 5-3-2 formation in preparation for Sunday's game in Rio de Janeiro, so the majority of the questions that followed would explore this subject.
"The five-man line is deceptive, because the full-backs move up to become offensive midfielders," said Fede Fernandez. The Napoli defender, who is likely to share the task with Pablo Zabaleta, Hugo Campagnaro, Ezequiel Garay and Marcos Rojo in the back line, added that "the three central backs provide more defensive coverage and marking."
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Meanwhile, Augusto Fernandez believes that "the system is nothing new."
"It's always beneficial for a team to be able to use multiple formations. It depends on the game," the Celta de Vigo player said.
As the questions about tactics and the side's possible layout continued, Fede Fernandez interrupted. "Nothing is decided yet. They're just alternatives that the coach has to work out. We adapt to both formations. With the 4-3-3 we might have a better offensive potential ... but whatever the coach decides will be best."
Regarding the opponent in the World Cup opener, the former Estudiantes player recalled the friendly match vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina on Nov. 18, 2013, in St. Louis -- which ended in a 2-0 win, with both goals from Sergio Aguero -- and talked about their key player: "[Edin] Dzeko is a great player, he's good in the air. You have to keep him close and be careful with high passes."
"Bosnia has high-quality players who are good technically and play in European soccer. They're patient in distributing the ball. We must close ranks and cannot give them any space. In addition, we have to seize the offensive potential to come out quick and hurt them," said Fede Fernandez.
If Argentina plays with a 5-3-2, which is not something that most teams prepare for in the group stage, the men playing in midfield and up front would likely be Maxi Rodriguez or Fernando Gago, as well as Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi and Aguero.
The topic of squad togetherness also came up in Friday's news conference. "We have the same enthusiasm as all Argentines," said Augusto. "The group is strong, the time we have spent together has helped us. All 23 of us want to give everything for Argentina," said Fede.
Tellingly, the players chose to sidestep questions about the referees in Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia. "The game [on Thursday] may be a reflection of what this World Cup will be like," said Augusto. Don't take this the wrong way: he did not mean in terms of poor refereeing decisions, but the parity on display. It was clear from their comments that their minds are focused only on Bosnia and on doing things right as a team.
The team flew on Friday from Belo Horizonte to Rio de Janeiro. On Saturday afternoon, Sabella will give his news conference, where he'll likely give no indication as to his starting XI. After the coach's words, the team will take the field at the Maracana to train.
For now, the possible 5-3-2 system is just one version. Given the manager's history of tweaking his team, not much should come as a surprise.