Argentina, before the semi-final, had issues in their side. Their midfield lacked ball progression and while Enzo Fernandez did play, he would drop in as a centre-back in possession. This left Argentina hollow in midfield and forced Lionel Messi to drop deeper. But the lack of direct runners meant that Messi didn’t always have an out-ball even if he dropped deep.
To address that issue and knowing that Argentina will come up against the midfield of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, Scaloni played a 4-4-2 diamond system against Croatia. It wasn’t just used to nullify Croatia’s midfield three and have a numerical advantage, it helped Argentina solve both of their problems.
Having four midfielders centrally to help progress the ball meant that Messi stayed higher up the pitch. He didn’t have the burden to drop deep and aid possession because Argentina had players to do that already. The way a 4-4-2 diamond formation works though, allows the full-backs to motor up the pitch and often run in-behind.
Nahuel Molina, who is very adept in an attacking phase, had the license to move freely when Argentina had possession and Messi’s role was optimised. As a result, Julian Alvarez had go only one way – forward. He had to make that daring runs centrally and take defenders on. The 4-4-2 shape essentially simplified things for the whole Argentina side.
Whether Scaloni takes this approach into the final remains to be seen, but it might be a very useful move, considering that both France and Morocco aren’t possession-first sides.
Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN