When: Sunday, June 15, 6 p.m. ET
Where: Maracana Stadium. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Argentina’s probable starting 11: Romero; Zabaleta, Fernández, Garay, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di María; Aguero, Higuaín, Messi.
It is do or die, and it starts on Sunday night as Argentina starts its World Cup adventure against a dangerous Bosnia and Herzegovina side that will be looking to pull off the upset led by Edin Dzeko and his goalscoring prowess.
The “script” is supposed to go as follows: Argentina rolls through its group stage as it wins all three of its matches comfortably and Messi shows everyone how awesome he can be. Then, it is Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo’s turn to go down in the quarterfinals, followed by an epic showdown with Brazil in the final.
However, if we have learned anything from the World Cup so far, is that Hollywood seems to have gotten its hands on the original script and added some dangerous twists, such as the Netherlands ripping Spain to pieces or the referees forgetting what an offside call should be.
So forget everything you thought or assumed before the whistle blows at 6 p.m. ET and instead realize that Bosnia is a truly dangerous opponent that could cause damage to an unproven defense and a goalkeeper like Sergio Romero that played a handful of matches this season.
Argentina will come out swinging, ready to attack and dominate with its standard 4-3-3 formation and its “Fantastic Four” of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di María and Gonzalo Higuaín generating all kinds of chaos up front.
Also, get ready to see a home field advantage away from home like no other for Argentina, since thousands of Argentineans have crossed the border to turn the Maracana into a host of a colorful party that will include flags, chanting and “colorful” songs at a neutral stadium that won’t feel as such for Alejandro Sabella’s squad.
However, if the match were to turn sour for whatever reason, that support could actually turn into whispers of doubt and concern that could paralyze the team on the pitch. Expectations are a double-edged sword.
Argentina and Bosnia saw each other not long ago as they faced off in a friendly that took place in the United States, more specifically in St. Louis, in November 2013.
That night, Argentina won 2-0 thanks to two goals and a spectacular performance by Aguero as Messi looked on from the sidelines. This time around, the stakes are quite a bit higher.
The weather in Rio de Janeiro shouldn’t be an impediment, since the temperature at kickoff should be in the mid 20s Celsius (high 70s Fahrenheit) and the sun will have set by then.
The curtain is about to be raised in Group F, and the world is eager to see what kind of spectacle Argentina will provide as billions of people expect to see the first act of the performance of a lifetime.