ANALYSIS: Banega brilliance precedes more Sampaoli insanity

Alan O’Brien 

Jorge Sampaoli had lost his nerve. Before this World Cup, Argentina’s manager spoke extensively of the need to share Lionel Messi’s burden. A novel 2-3-3-2 system was mooted, in which Ever Banega would dictate from deep, freeing Messi to finish moves; rather than simply commence them.

But, when push came to shove, Sampaoli opted instead for the huevos of Lucas Biglia and Enzo Perez. Iceland and Croatia, therefore, had but one job: stop Messi. Not so Nigeria. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: New-look Super Eagles put Argentina on counterattacking notice

Alan O’Brien 

Argentina, beware. Having abandoned the 4-2-3-1 that Croatia conquered on Saturday, Gernot Rohr’s new-look Nigeria are now primed to counterattack. Channel-space the Albiceleste generously gifted to the Croats simply will not wash against this Super Eagles selection. Ahmed Musa, who hit the Argentinians on the double four years ago, must be licking his lips. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Super Eagles fail to prey upon cumbersome Croats

Alan O’Brien 

Zlatko Dalic got away with one here. With both Argentina and Iceland looming, the Croatian coach went all out to secure a priceless win. But, if anything, his 4-2-4 made achieving that goal more difficult than it needed to be. Continue reading