Argentina choke off Belgium
WITH 82 minutes of brilliant game management, Argentina dispelled the notion that they are a one-man team dependent wholly on captain Lionel Messi to win the World Cup.
The South Americans united in a canny display to outfox a talented but inexperienced Belgium side 1-0 on Saturday, with their gifted playmaker, the difference in all four previous wins in Brazil, a mere cog in the team wheel.
Once Gonzalo Higuain put Argentina in front in the eighth minute of the quarter-final, the South Americans and their feared forward line surprisingly opted to shut up shop.
They held the ball, steered away from attacks, ensured a defensive platform was always in place and employed the odd bit of infuriating time wasting to throw the Belgians off.
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero made only one save, a parry from a Kevin De Bruyne effort from a distance, midway through the first half.
It was a paltry return from a Belgium side packed full of creative talents and which forced United States goalkeeper Tim Howard to make a record 16 saves in their last-16 win played at high intensity and swinging from end to end.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella clearly did not want a repeat of that performance.
He made three changes, one enforced, bringing into the midfield Lucas Biglia, who screened the backline brilliantly alongside Javier Mascherano in a match that rarely got out of second gear.
The sharp passing of the two able ball players nullified the Belgians on the rare occasion when the European side attempted to close the ball down quickly.
The frustrated Belgians could do nothing.
"We've seen the experience of Argentina, they can distort rhythm, it takes 30 seconds to take a throw-in, the referee does nothing so they can break our rhythm and speed," Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said. "We were not impressed by the Argentines, absolutely not, it's just an ordinary team."