Argentina is set for a return to its habitual 4-3-3 formation in the Group F clash against Iran on Saturday. Coach Alejandro Sabella surprisingly started with a 5-3-2 system in his side’s opener versus Bosnia-Herzegovina, but switched back to the team’s favored formation after the interval. Captain Lionel Messi, who scored a wonder goal to seal a 2-1 victory for the Albiceleste, claimed on Monday he feels more comfortable in a 4-3-3, while defender Pablo Zabaleta also revealed he prefers the system. Gonzalo Higuain is set to start for Argentina after beginning on the bench on Sunday, while Angel Di Maria has shaken off muscle fatigue and been declared fully fit for the game in Belo Horizonte.
Argentina is based just outside the capital of Minas Gerais and will travel the short distance into town to the Estadio Mineirao for the second group game. Inter striker Rodrigo Palacio, who missed the opener with an ankle problem, has trained normally this week and could play a part from the bench. A win for Argentina will see Sabella’s side qualify for the last 16 ahead of its final group game against Nigeria in Porto Alegre on the 25th of June. Iran drew with Nigeria in the competition’s first goalless game. Coach Carlos Queiroz, who will be leaving his post after the World Cup, dismissed criticism aimed at his side after that match and called for his players’ achievements to be put into perspective. Queiroz claimed people in Iran would be proud of the result and reminded reporters that his players turn out in an amateur league, not the top teams in Europe or South America. Left back Hashem Beikzadeh is available again for the Asian side after missing the opener against Nigeria with an injury sustained in a warmup game prior to the competition.
This is Argentina and Iran’s first World Cup encounter.
Their only previous meeting was in a friendly on 22 March 1977 in Madrid, with the game ending 1-1.
Iran’s only previous World Cup game against a South American side was a 4-1 defeat against Peru in 1978.
Argentina have won ten and lost just one of their last 13 World Cup group games (Drawn-2), scoring 26 and conceding just five in total in this run.
Argentina have won five of their last six World Cup games, with the 4-0 defeat against Germany in 2010 the only exception.
Lionel Messi has scored one goal in one game at the 2014 World Cup, that’s already as many as in his eight games at the World Cups 2006 and 2010 combined.
Iran have won only one of their ten games at the World Cup (Drawn-3 Lost-6), against USA in 1998 (2-1).
Argentina have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last three World Cup games, the last time they failed to do so in four successive matches was in the 80’s (1982-86).
The last two goals Iran have scored at World Cups have come from corners (both in 2006).
Five of the last nine goals Iran have conceded at World Cups have been headed.