Argentina will face Iran tomorrow afternoon in Belo Horizonte and Alejandro Sabella is expected to name what is considered Argentina’s strongest starting eleven after fielding a criticized 5-3-2 in the opener with Bosnia. The attacking 4-3-3 that all the players seem to prefer will be used and Javier Mascherano will claim his 100th appearance for Argentina, joining a very select group.
Judging by all the comments from players and the formation used in training this week, Alejandro Sabella is reverting back to his trusted 4-3-3 for Saturday’s match against Iran. This will see Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuaín return to the starting eleven after being among the substitutes last Sunday only to impress in their second half appearances.
The lineup will be: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Fede Fernández, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo; Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Ángel Di María; Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín.
Switching to this formation on Sunday, Argentina looked far more comfortable and Messi showed what he is capable of. With Iran, unlikely to pose as much as a threat as Bosnia, Sabella can afford to a little more bold.Victory for Argentina will guarantee a place in the knockout rounds with a game to spare.
The match has added significance for Javier Mascherano who will enter the exclusive 100 Club with this game. Since making his debut against Uruguay in 2003, Mascherano has gone on to represent Argentina 99 times and Saturday’s clash with Iran will see him join Javier Zanetti (145 Caps), Roberto Ayala (115 Caps) and Diego Simeone (106 Caps).
Without knowing too much about Iran it is difficult to say how manager, Carlos Quieroz will line up his side. In their opener they drew 0-0 with Nigeria and also played with a 4-3-3 but perhaps it would be a little brave to play such an attacking lineup against Argentina.
Against Nigeria the Iran side was: Alireza HAGHIGHI; Jalal HOSSEINI, Amirhossein SADEGHI, Pejman MONTAZERI, Mehrdad POOLADI; Khosro HEYDARI, Khosro HEYDARI, Ehsan HAJI SAFI; Ashkan DEJAGAH, Reza GHOOCHANNEJAD, Andranik TIMOTIAN
Argentina and Iran have only played once before in a friendly in Madrid in 1977 which finished 1-1. This will be their first competitive World Cup fixture but politically this match provides a little more history.
Argentina has accused the Iranian government for the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people in 1994. This has not been proved but relations between the two countries are strained and could provide some tension off the pitch.