Much like last month where the friendly win over Guatemala provided little information, Argentina head into a far more testing second match of the international break with a convincing victory in the bag. Iraq were dogged in defence and made Lionel Scaloni’s side work but ultimately Argentina’s quality was too much and as 4-0 winners, La Albiceleste move on to Tuesday’s clash with Brazil.
Holding back the likes of Mauro Icardi, Nicolás Otamendi and Nicolás Tagliafico for Tuesday, Scaloni still had a starting eleven that boasted the talented of Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martínez and Leandro Paredes.
Dominating possession from kickoff, Iraq were content to get players behind the ball and force Argentina wide from the congested central area and for the opening quarter of an hour or so it worked.
Eventually Argentina found the breakthrough and it came from those wide areas as Marcos Acuña, pushed forward from left-back, delivered a whipped cross and his former Racing Club teammate Lautaro Martínez darted just in front of his marker to head past Jalal Hassan.
It was Martínez’s maiden goal for Argentina and soon after the break, substitute Roberto Pereyra bagged his first too. La Albiceleste had been restricted to speculative efforts during the first half, barring a swift counter that saw Hassan save from Acuña but within seven minutes of the restart, Paulo Dybala began finding space.
The Juve forward had already gone close when he found Pereyra in space and the in-form Watford midfield tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
With so many second half substitutions the game lost fluency but Argentina extended their lead eight minutes from time. Franco Cervi’s corner flicked on by Eduardo Salvio for Germán Pezzella unmarked at the back post to head powerfully home.
The victory was already secured when Cervi capped off the performance with a wonderful solo effort. Sprinting at the Iraqi backline from almost halfway, the 24-year-old drove past three or four defenders before rifling the ball left-footed inside the far post.
Scaloni had said pre-match that ‘nothing is easy’ and while Iraq defended in numbers, it was a canter for Argentina. Tuesday’s match against Brazil will be a far better indication of how this young group are doing and could play a determining factor in Scaloni’s future.