World Cup pre-game: Argentina vs. Belgium
Teams could play another low-scoring, tense quarter-final match
Argentina vs. Belgium
- 12 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 5
- CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup
What’s at stake
Neither team has scored many goals so far in Brazil: Argentina has seven goals, and Belgium only six. So this may well be a low-scoring chess match. And the first goal may win.
Belgium’s captain, Vincent Kompany, is recovering from a groin injury but is expected to start (or at least play) in this match. Argentina’s striker, Sergio Aguero, looked to be out of the entire World Cup with a hamstring pull. But he practised with the squad on Wednesday and may be game-fit by Saturday.
Argentina’s Marcos Rojo, a key defender for his team, is sitting out this match against Belgium due to two yellows. Argentina leads the head-to-head history with three wins to one loss, in which it outscored the Europeans 10-3.
The winner here plays the winner of the Netherlands-Costa Rica match in Sao Paulo on Wednesday (CBC, CBC.ca/FIFAWorldCup, 3:30 p.m. ET).
Argentina. Lionel Messi. He was frustrated and largely ineffectual for a long time against Switzerland. But his setup for Angel di Maria’s game-winning goal was incredible.
Belgium. Romelu Lukaku. He brought his fresh legs and fierce pace into the game against the U.S. when subbed in at 91 minutes. And he was instrumental in both of Belgium’s subsequent goals.
What to watch for
Argentina’s defence has been unsteady at times, as has its defensive formation. The team will need to tighten up if it is to stop the likes of Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Divock Origi.
Diego Maradona warned coach Alejandro Sabella that he is destined for "catastrophe" if he cannot alleviate some of the burden on Messi. The other talent on this squad — and there is plenty — has to step up.
Belgium’s main goal: stop Messi.
The Red Devils thrive on super subs — four of their six goals have been scored by subs. And they also score late in the game. The former are proven to contribute to Belgian success, but the latter could send them packing if Argentina scores first.
They said it
"The first half was quite close and Switzerland got two good chances to open the scoring. But after the interval, we started to show our credentials and we deserved to win." — Alejandro Sabella, Argentina's manager, talking to reporters after his team's Round of 16 victory.
“We had a lot of opportunities, and we dominated the game, and in the end it was well deserved even if it was scary with the U.S. goal.”— Belgian manager Marc Wilmots speaking to the BBC after that incredible game against the Americans.
The big number
127 — That's how many crosses the Argentines have had so far in this World Cup, almost double the tournament average of 69 per team. Look for them to test Belgium’s back line repeatedly with crossing balls.
Obligatory fun fact
Belgium has never won the World Cup. But it won the gold medal for football in 1920 when Belgium hosted the Olympics.