Argentina will be playing against Belgium in the first of Saturday's two quarter-finals at Brazil World Cup 2014. Argentina's megastar player Lionel 'La Pulga' Messi is almost for certain going to play a pivotal role for the South American team as he has done for the last four wins, but will he be able to secure his team's chance of winning when facing Belgium's goalie Thibaut Courtois who has kept him at bay for seven games in a row?
Argentina vs. Belgium game will begin at 9 a.m. PST on Saturday, July 5, 2014, and will be televised live through ABC or ESPN network at ESPN2. The match also can be watched online through desktop or any mobile devices on WatchABC or WatchESPN free live stream at the links below (free for TV subscribers).
If Argentina's offensive lines besides Messi do not step up to fill their billing and alleviate his burden, they face a grave "catastrophe" as Argentina's World Cup legend Diego Maradona warned, criticizing the team's dependence on La Pulga
Belgium's coach Marc Wilmots pointed out this imbalance in the opposition and said his team will capitalize on this hole with their team-first approach, where he credits the even contribution of the players for their advancement to the quarter-finals.
While Messi is arguably the best soccer player in the world, the Argentinians could significantly increase their chances of winning and raise their dominance if every offensive attackers, including forward Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, and Sergio Aguero, who unfortunately may not play against Belgium due to muscle injury, can breakthrough and add to the overall scores.
While Belgium may successfully slow down Messi's offenses, Wilmots is more concerned about Argentina's collective strength than the individual gifts of La Pulga.
"Argentina have their values and traditions, and their players never gave up," he said, according to FIFA.com. "What they achieved in 1986 was mostly down to Maradona, but with Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Hijuain, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi around, they've now got five players who can call make the difference."
In Belgium's first three games, Belgium were playing below their normal form, but were able to get through and beat Algeria 2-1, Russia 1-0, and South Korea 1-0. Then, Belgium faced head-on with USA and did not relent on the attacks and bombarded super goalie Tim Howard with 27 shots. While Howard put on an amazing performance in grabbing 16 blocks, he inevitably allowed two goals under the relentless Belgium offenses, which advanced them to their first World Cup quarter-final since 1986.
Argentina and Belgium last met in Mexico 1986, where Maradona led Albiceleste in beating Belgium en route to the World Cup title. Although Belgium did not win, the significance was that no one expected them to get as far as the semi-finals. This year's matchup will resume the teams' historica rivalry dating back to their meeting in 1982, where Les Diables Rouges claimed first blood in a 1-0 success at Spain 1982, before Argentina avenged that loss with a 2-0 victory four years later.
Midfielder Eden Hazard expressed his gladness to be able to join the "generation of 86," and believes that his team billed as the country's golden generation could make their own history by outdoing their predecessors.
While he and teammates understand the caliber of Messi and the Albiceleste, Hazard believes they can outplay Argentina and win. "We know the best player in the world is in this team, but we are not afraid. We can win."
Wilmots seconded Hazard's view.
"We are not favorites against Argentina but there is lack of balance in their team," he said. "We will make sure we play well against a stronger opponent. I do not worry about what happened in the past and I certainly don't think it will happen again."
After beating USA, Wilmot expressed that they are ready to face the challenge and has a clear strategy to command his squad in match against Argentina.
"I've got everything clear in my mind," he said at a press conference following the win over USA. "We won't be standing there admiring Messi, and I know how we need to play them. I'm wondering though, what they're going to do to stop us. It'll be interesting to see."
Meanwhile, Belgium's captain Vincent Kompany, who has been out with an ongoing groin problem, will be in shape to return to play against Argentina.
The winner of the match held at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia will face either Netherlands or Costa Rica.