What to Expect from Argentina:
If there was anything that tempered the US celebrations for winning Group A, it was knowing that if everything went according to plan, Argentina would be waiting in the semifinal round. In the buildup to the Ecuador match last week, we discussed that while winning was the primary objective, winning smartly, without picking needless suspensions was also important.
Obviously that didn’t go down quite like we hoped as the Yanks will be without three of their first choice players on Tuesday. Jermaine Jones collected an odd red card and Wood and Bedoya each picked up a needless yellow that disqualifies them from the next round. Not ideal.
The Tournament So Far:
Argentina have been unbeatable in their first four matches of the tournament. They beat Chile 2-1 in their opening match without the assistance of Lionel Messi. They beat Panama 5-0 with Messi coming on for a second half cameo and then scoring a hat trick. They brushed aside Bolivia in 45 minutes taking a 3-0 lead and then pulling up for a breather in the second half, and then eliminated Venezuela in the quarterfinal with a 4-1 win. If you’re into statistics and analysis, you’ll no doubt notice a pattern developing here: Argentina wins soccer matches almost all of the time and they do it by scoring a lot and playing solid defensively.
Argentina’s goal differential is the highest in the tournament so far with a +12 in four matches. I’d love to be able to point to a match where they looked vulnerable and say “see this is how they can be exploited”, but I can’t find such a thing because it is likely that such a thing does not exist.
Argentina has so much talent that Sergio Aguero has had to settle for being brought off the bench for garbage time minutes. This is a man that has averaged 27 goals a season in the premier league over the last five years and he’s the second choice striker to Gonzalo Higuain (a guy who also has a pretty ok scoring record as well - he banged in 38 goals for Napoli this year).
In summary, Argentina is very good.
Since 1995, the USA have squared off against Argentina five times. Surprisingly, the American’s record isn’t all that bad. One win, two draws, and two losses. The one win, believe it or not, came in the Copa America back in 1995 when the USA defeated Argentina 3-0 (Klopas, Lalas, and Wynalda scoring). The USA were the surprise darlings of that particular tournament, winning their group with 6 points and advancing all the way to the semi-final before bowing out to Brazil 1-0 and finishing fourth overall. Since then, it’s been friendlies only. They drew 0-0 in East Ruthorford back in 2008 against an Argentina lineup featuring a pair of 20 year old forwards Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. Another exhibition in 2011 ended in a 1-1 draw with Juan Agudelo canceling out Esteban Cambiasso’s first half strike to earn a spirited draw.
Can We Win?
Well, obviously this is a sport and anything can happen over the course of 90 minutes. Messi could get a red card in the first minute. Gonzalo Higuain could accidentally flatten Mascherano in the 10th minute injuring both of them. Funes Mori could have an absolute howler and give up three penalties and score an own goal. These are not likely events I know, but they are still within the realm of possibility. I've heard “David and Goliath” thrown around a lot and while I appreciate the sentiment, the metaphor isn't actually apt unless we accept that in this instance David has eight times the population of Goliath but just isn’t as good at fighting. The Herculean task is going to be made far more difficult by the absence of Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood, and Alejandro Bedoya. Argentina may be without the services of Angel Di Maria, but they have more than enough quality on their bench to cover for him.
If Argentina has a weakness, and really it's only a weakness compared to their strengths, it's their back four- particularly the center pairing of Otamendi and Funes Mori. Neither of these players would make anybody's World Best XI, but they have still been plenty competent and assured when called upon so far.
The US have played pretty well to get here, but- and I mean no disrespect the great nations of Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Ecuador- they haven't matched up with a side of Argentina’s quality. If we could tax talent the only team even close to Argentina’s bracket in the Yanks’ recent results box is Colombia and that didn't go overwhelmingly well.
Would a win be a miracle? Miracle might be kind of a strong word, but it would be a tremendous upset. There’s no reason to believe that if the United States play a perfect game of soccer that they can’t catch Argentina off guard and get a surprise result. I’ve seen smaller teams get an early goal, bunker hard, park a fleet of busses, and hang on for 90 minutes. It’s unusual but not impossible. There’s no reason to believe that we might not capitalize on a few lucky breaks. There’s nothing wrong with having faith. There’s nothing wrong with having hope, and there’s nothing wrong with believing.
Belief is a funny thing, and a point of pride for many Americans. If there is one thing that I’m sure of, it’s that the Jurgen Klinsmann and his side have not already been beaten before the first whistle. They will come out swinging. They will play with pride. Kyle Beckerman will dance like nobody’s watching. Whose house? OUR house. Why not us? Why not now? Ducks. Fly. Together. It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can GET hit and keep moving forward. We will NOT go quietly into the night. We will NOT vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. TODAY WE CELEBRATE OUR INDEPENDANCE DAY!!!!!!!!
Don’t make me sing the song. I’ll do it if I have to, but I won’t like it.
I Believe That...
Final Score Prediction:
Argentina: 3 USA: 1