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Jun 17, 2014

Messi prefers 4-3-3

Our World Cup crew revisit the ways in which Argentina were able to escape their Group F opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina with a win.

RÍO DE JANEIRO -- "Here with us are Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo," announced the Argentina press officer. It was only a formality: No. 10 needs no introduction.

As usual, the media had been held in suspense as to who would give the press conference until the minute they walked into the room. Everyone was very surprised when the captain entered.

One day after defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1, the main topic of conversation was still the formation change during the debut in Brazil 2014.

Messi started things off by saying: "The good thing is that we have alternatives. That we can play in different ways. During any game we can go from one to the other, depending on the opponent and the result. The most important thing is that we know how to play."

As questions about the lineup continued, Messi began to loosen up, as he did during the second half at Maracaná: "We feel more comfortable with the forwards and me, further back. That way we have more counters attacks, more opportunities, with Di María in the mix. The first half was harder for us. Kun [Aguero] and I ended up out away from it all."

Messi was clear and concise, as he is on the field. He reaffirmed the opinion held in the mixed zone on Sunday after the game.

As strange as it would be for him to deflect a ball to the outside, deflect is just what he did when asked why he thinks manager Alejandro Sabella chose a 5-3-2 formation instead of the well-known 4-3-3: "You would have to ask Alejandro why he decided to play that way. Maybe he didn't want to give away anything and run the risk in the second half. He realized that we were lagging behind, that there weren't enough players up front, and that's the way it was. When [Higuain] came on, we generated a lot more opportunities."

- Marcotti: Sabella's tactical error
- Vickery: Formation dilemma

To bring the matter to a close, Messi put it more bluntly: "The second half should be analyzed. We are not used to pulling back, to giving space to our opponent. In the second half we played like we are used to playing, like we like to play."

The Barcelona superstar was also critical of his own play: "I didn't have many shots. I lost possession of the ball several times, and other times I took it back up the field. I am frustrated that I didn't play like I had hoped to. Things just weren't working out for me."

Regarding his goal, the second he has scored in three World Cups, he said: "It was special because of its timing for the team. 2-0 put us at ease. Last World Cup I didn't score a goal, that's the only reason why I was happy."

The Argentine icon also commended his countrymen at the game: "It was so beautiful to see so many Argentinians when we sang the anthem. We were grateful."  

The Barcelona star also spoke of the change in his personality: "A lot of time has passed, we grow up and mature inside and out. I have a lot of friends and am close with all of them, and I am more relaxed. I feel good and happy."

Oh, and we said that Marcos Rojo participated. Eclipsed by Messi, the left-back had few opportunities to slip a word in. "I was full of adrenaline; it was my World Cup debut. It felt different from the rest," commented the player from Sporting Lisbon.

Nicolas Baier

Nicolas Baier is senior editor based in Buenos Aires at ESPN.com/ Latin America. Nico is in charge of coverage of the Argentine National Team, having reported on Maradona's Argentina squad at World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Follow him on Twitter @NicolasBaier