Two fancied sides who have made it to the quarter-finals despite not playing their best football meet in Brasilia on Saturday, as Argentina take on Belgium in an intriguing match-up.
Argentina have won each of their games so far by a single goal, with Lionel Messi at long last coming to the fore with four goals and two assists, including the one which set up Angel Di Maria for the winner late in extra time against Switzerland in the round of 16.
That match was another example of how Alejandro Sabella’s side rely heavily on individual brilliance to win matches, rather than a particular style of play. So far at this World Cup it has been clear that Argentina have struggled against sides who have defended in numbers, while their own defence has looked vulnerable when called upon.
They now come up against what has arguably been the most sound defensive unit at these finals up until Belgium. The goal scored by the United States’ Julian Green in the last round represented the first they had conceded in open play in the competition, with excellent young goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois well protected by experienced duo Vincent Kompany and Daniel van Buyten.
Going forward, the European side looked much more like the one everyone expected to see prior to the start of the tournament. After limping to three group stage wins, there was more penetration and verve from the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, while Romelu Lukaku looked backed in form when he was introduced.
This tie appears a close one to call, with Argentina perhaps having the edge in attack, while Belgium looking to possess the better defence. Sabella will be forced into one change at the back, with Marcos Rojo suspended after being booked against the Swiss. Sergio Aguero is also set to miss out with injury.
For Belgium, Steven Defour returns after serving a one-match ban following his sending off against South Korea. Thomas Vermaelen is back in contention after recovering from a hamstring problem.