Iran (0-0-1) vs. Argentina (1-0-0), Noon (ET)
06/21/2014 8:10 AM
06/21/2014 8:17 AM
Belo Horizonte, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Argentina can clinch a spot in the knockout round with a win over Iran on Saturday at the Estadio Mineirao in the second game of Group F play for both sides.
Argentina turned in a less-than convincing performance in turning back Bosnia- Herzegovina, 2-1, in its first game, which included Argentina going in front in the opening minutes through an own goal.
But the rest of first half was disappointing from an Argentina perspective, with Lionel Messi bringing a touch of class to the game with a wonderful goal in the second half.
Bosnia pulled one back in the final 10 minutes through Vedad Ibisevic to make for an interesting ending to the game, but Argentina survived and will now hope to improve on its opening-game performance.
"It's important that we started off on the right foot with the three points, but we do have things we must improve," said Messi. "It's not easy with all the anxiety and the nerves, but the important thing is the result. We had a great second half. We had the ball much more, created several opportunities and that's what we have to continue to do."
How well Argentina deals with its lofty expectations could play a key role in how far Alejandro Sabella's side goes in this tournament, although that pressure is unlikely to come into play against Iran on Saturday.
This match pits the heavy group favorite, Argentina, against the group outsiders, Iran, although the underdogs do come into this game with a point after a 0-0 draw with Nigeria.
Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz was thrilled for his side to earn a point from its opening game, and he acknowledges that his men face a huge test against the South American heavyweights.
"We're relieved to have got the point," Queiroz said. "We're up against Argentina in our next game and if we'd lost this match, then we would have left ourselves in a very tricky situation. We are very happy, because Iran have got much less to work with than other sides."
Argentina's plethora of gifted attackers figures to have plenty of time on the ball Saturday, while Iran shouldn't pose much of a threat to Argentina's defense going forward.
Expect Messi and his team to enjoy large spells of possession in the Iran half of the field and to use this match as a way to jell ahead of tougher games to come.
A loss won't eliminate Iran from contention, so the goal here may be to just limit the damage and hope for a good result against Bosnia-Herzegovina on the final day of group play.
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