More than Messi: Five Argentina players Germany should watch out for | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.07.2010
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More than Messi: Five Argentina players Germany should watch out for

It's understandable that Leo Messi stands out as the man to watch whenever Argentina play. The world's best player is a potential match winner. But quarter-final opponents Germany should also be wary of some other stars.

Argentina's Leo Messi against Nigeria at the Olympic Games.

Messi is Argentina's main man but other stars are also deadly

Germany and Argentina renew their rivalry on Saturday afternoon as two of world football's superpowers clash in Cape Town for a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Joachim Loew's young team will be buzzing after putting England to the sword in the previous round but will find themselves up against a team that is simply in a different class to anyone they've yet played in this tournament.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona has built his team around the world's best player, Lionel Messi, but while Germany will be very wary of the little magician's influence, they would be wise to look further than just the Barcelona player when it comes to threats in the Argentina team. Messi aside, Argentina have match-winners all over the park. Here DW-World identifies the five stars that could prove the undoing of Germany's youngsters.

Carlos Tevez

The Manchester City striker is hitting his best form at just the right time. A player full of power and passion, Tevez can operate as a target man or as a roaming threat behind the main striker. Tenacious in the tackle and with the ability to run all day, Tevez can pick up the ball in any area of the pitch and drive Argentina forward at pace.

Argentina's Carlos Tevez (11) pushes off Germany's Arne Friedrich (3) in the first half of the quarterfinal World Cup soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 30, 2006.

Having clashed in the World Cup quarters in 2006, Germany will know Tevez well

If played behind a lone forward such as Gonzalo Higuain or Diego Milito, Tevez can fetch and carry in the channel between midfield and attack, linking with Messi to provide movement and create openings for the striker. As well as feeding the front man, Tevez has a wicked shot himself and needs very little space and time to get a cracking shot off at goal, meaning even when deployed in the hole, he is still a goal-scoring threat. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira will have to watch his runs as he attempts to bypass them to bear down on Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich in the centre of defense.

When played as one of the main strikers, Tevez provides width to the main attack and so Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng will also be wary of being drawn out of position by his wide runs which create space for Higuain or Milito. All in all, Carlos Tevez is a handful wherever Maradona chooses to deploy him.

Gabriel Heinze

Heinze may be a defender but a striker's heart beats in his chest. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player has already shown that his aerial ability at set pieces is an enviable weapon in Argentina's arsenal.

Gabriel Heinze challenges Thomas Mueller of Germany

Heinze is an aerial threat, and likes to get forward to latch on to loose balls at the edge of the area

As well as pushing up for corners and free-kicks, Heinze is a strong support player for Argentina's counter attacks, arriving at either post behind the strikers to slam in any loose ball or capitalize on a an out-of-position defender's mistake. The Albiceleste's sweeping attack play tends to pull back-fours out of position and with central defenders watching for a Messi swerve or a Tevez surge, Heinze can often go unnoticed drifting in wide. Again, Lahm and Boateng will have to be careful not to get involved in the action in front of goal when Argentina break forward while Schweinsteiger and Khedira will need to watch Heinze arriving late at set-pieces, given that Mertesacker and Friedrich will be busy with other threats in the box.

Sergio Aguero

Maradona's son-in-law hasn't played as big a part so far as some may have hoped, but his involvement in the 2-0 win over Greece and in the latter stages of the 4-1 victory over South Korea showed what a potent attacker he can be. If his coach decides the best way to beat Germany is to rattle the back four with pace and trickery, Aguero may get more time in the quarter-final.

Argentina's Sergio Aguero celebrates after scoring a goal against Paraguay during a World Cup 2010 qualifying soccer match in Buenos Aires, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008.

Aguero doesn't start much for his father-in-law, but that doesn't keep him from scoring for him

The Atletico Madrid player is best deployed roaming behind the strikers - which may be one reason why he and Tevez have yet to start together, with Maradona preferring Tevez in that role with Aguero mostly taking up the position as a fresh-legged substitute.

Aguero is a one-man bag of tricks, has fast feet and an eye for the killer pass - very much like his teammate in the number 10 shirt. Against South Korea when he came on as a substitute, it was Aguero who tore through the defense to feed Messi whose shot hit the post allowing Higuain to score the rebound. Minutes later, Messi's chip found him free in the area and his inch-perfect cross gave Higuain his hat-trick.

While Maradona may favor Tevez to start against the Germans, Germany should not discount the arrival of Aguero should he come on in his place. If this is the tactic, the coach will be bringing on a game-changing player who will need strict supervision for how ever long he's on the field.

Gonzalo Higuain

The Real Madrid hit-man is the current joint top scorer at this World Cup with four goals and has been compared to Argentine goal scoring legends Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo by Maradona. The man they call "Pipita" has already scored a winner against Germany in his short international career so Die Mannschaft's back line will know all about him.

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, left, scores his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, June 27, 2010.

He's not flashy, but scoring goals - not style points - is what matters most to Higuain

Higuain may have already made a mark on the Germany defense but he is now a more confident player than the one who netted the goal that beat the Germans in a friendly in March, just five months after making his international debut.

The French-born striker was initially not a favorite of Maradona, who believed Higuain lacked the ruthlessness of a world-class attacker. But the Real Madrid striker's 27-goal haul in La Liga forced his coach's hand, and since being picked Higuain has repaid Maradona's confidence with goals aplenty - six in his first eight caps.

An attacker with great speed, striking ability and an eye for a good pass, Higuain can be dangerous from inside and outside the box. His goals so far at this World Cup have come from a poacher's instinct so Germany's defenders will have to be decisive in dealing with any balls into the area when "Pipita" is around.

Angel Di Maria

Anyone who convinces Jose Mourinho to part with 25 million euros can't be all bad. Di Maria completed a move from Benfica to Real Madrid during this World Cup, an indication of how high his stock has risen and how dangerous a player the young winger is considered to be.

South Korea's Lee Chung-yong, left, fights for the ball with Argentina's Angel Di Maria, right, during the World Cup group B soccer match between Argentina and South Korea at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, June 17, 2010.

After a strong World Cup, the Real Madrid-bound speedster Di Maria's future looks very sunny indeed

Di Maria is one of the players who has benefitted most from Maradona's counter-attacking style with his breath-taking pace, close control and his great understanding with Messi, the conductor of Argentina's offensive symphonies. Di Maria is a combination of speed and thoughtfulness; intelligently aware of when to use his explosive running or when to slow the game down before unleashing a defense-splitting pass. He can also bang in a goal or two, armed as he is with a powerful shot.

As a foil for Messi, Di Maria will need close attention. German defenders will have to be aware of his ability to look ponderous when in fact he is drawing opposing players out of position by provoking a challenge. More often than not, he then slips the ball to a team mate who has taken up in the hole left by the defender, exposing the impatience of his opponent. The Germans will also have to watch him bombing past as Messi weighs up his own options…before perhaps releasing the ball into Di Maria's path. Given the opportunity, the 22-year-old could inflict plenty of damage.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann

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