1. Argentina Are Just Doing Enough, And That’s Just Fine
It has been a World Cup full of fine football, but there hasn’t really been a fine team. Colombia played to limit of their capabilities, but that’s about as close as we’ve got.
That is just fine though. Argentina and others have found a way to just do enough to win during these knockout stages, something that was again in evidence here as they established their early lead and then sought to control the game through sheer hard work.
They didn’t always do that too smoothly, but they are just doing enough to survive.
2. Gonzalo Higuain Can Still Come Up Trumps When You Need Him
More than most others, Gonzalo Higuain will have listened to the claims that this Argentina team were relying too much on Lionel Messi during this World Cup, particularly given that Napoli forward was yet to find the net at the tournament.
That all changed just eight minutes in to clash in Brasilia, as Higuain produced the type of clinical finish that only Messi amongst his teammates could have emulated. He still has a key role to play in the Argentina challenge.
3. Eden Hazard Let The World Cup Pass Him By
No goals and no really impressive performances for Eden Hazard in Brazil, with the Chelsea superstar now ‘boasting’ a hugely disappointing international record of just six goals in 51 appearances.
He was never able to stamp his authority on any game at the finals, especially here where his country were crying out for him to step up to the plate and he was up against a familiar opponent in Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta, who he bested in a Premier League game in February.
It just never seemed to get going for him though, and he’ll be hugely disappointed.
4. Angel di Maria Will Be A Tough Man To Replace
Argentina’s biggest blow was the loss of Angel di Maria to what seemed to be a muscle strain in the first half, as the winger was forced off the field just 33 minutes in to be replaced by Enzo Perez of Benfica.
The 28-year-old did an admirable job, but with the best will in the world he is no Di Maria, and if the Real Madrid man is proven to have a serious problem which will keep him out of the semi-finals and beyond, then Argentina could be in trouble.
5. Divock Origi Is Promising, But Still Very Raw
Perhaps when he’s on the flight back home to Belgium, coach Marc Wilmots might come to reflect on and regret his decision to start with the 19-year-old forward Divock Origi here.
There is little doubt that the teenager has talent, but he still has a lot to learn about the game, which is why Liverpool are reportedly set to sign him and then loan him back to Lille this summer.
Origi tried manfully, but defenders with the nous of Martin Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay were always going to be tough nuts to crack.