Bosnia-Herzegovina (0-0-0) vs. Argentina (0-0-0), 6 p.m. (ET)
06/15/2014 9:50 AM
06/15/2014 9:50 AM
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - The time is now for Lionel Messi to lead Argentina to World Cup glory, and the Barcelona man will get his first opportunity to do so when the side opens Group F play against Bosnia- Herzegovina on Sunday at the Maracana.
Messi has won just about everything a player can win on the club level and his trophy case is filled with individual and team accolades. He has guided the Catalans to six La Liga titles with the most recent triumph coming in 2012-13.
On the individual level, he has won three straight FIFA Ballon d'Or awards from 2010-2012, three La Liga Player of the Year honors and was the Champions League top scorer in four consecutive seasons from 2009-2012.
Despite his extremely high level of club success, Messi will be driven to produce some better individual performances in World Cup competition as he has scored just one goal in eight career World Cup matches.
He will have a lot of help, however, being joined in attack by fellow forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
The Napoli forward, Higuain, has 36 caps to his name and had a solid season in Serie A, scoring 17 goals in 31 appearances and helping Napoli claim the Coppa Italia.
Higuain netted a hat trick against South Korea in the 2010 World Cup and has racked up an impressive 20 goals for his country. He is an exceptional finisher in front of goal, but also does well holding the ball up.
Aguero, 26, netted 17 goals in 23 appearances for Premier League Champions Manchester City last season. He was slowed a bit by injury, but poses a significant threat in front of goal having scored 21 goals for his country.
The versatile Javier Mascherano will likely patrol the midfield as he is an excellent ball winner and distributor, but head coach Alejandro Sabella can also use him at the back as he has played central defense for Barcelona the last two seasons.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will be hoping to make a big splash in their maiden voyage at the World Cup, and an opening game against Argentina certainly throws the Bosnians into the fire immediately.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has only been an independent country for 21 years, and success on the biggest stage would go miles toward uniting a country that is still grappling with political and ethnic divisions following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
Leading the attack will be Manchester City forward Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic. Dzeko is the biggest name on the squad and delivered in a big way during the qualifying campaign when he scored 10 goals.
Ibisevic also pulled his weight in qualifying with eight goals and had a good season in the German Bundesliga, scoring 10 goals in 26 league appearances for Stuttgart.
A player to keep an eye on Sunday will be midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who had an excellent season for Roma in Serie A and looks poised to shine on the big stage.
Central defender Emir Spahic anchors the defense with 72 caps to his name, while goalkeeper Asmir Begovic gives the side an intimidating presence between the sticks and he is widely regarded as one of the top-five goalkeeper in the Premier League with Stoke City.
Most teams would simply be happy just to make their debut at a World Cup, but Bosnia-Herzegovina boasts some serious talent. They aren't likely to get three points from Argentina, but will certainly pose the biggest threat in the group.