Game on: Lineups and a brief look at Argentina vs. Iran

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Argentina’s free flowing attack should be on full display against an Iran side intent on defending. Catch the action at 12 noon ET.

[ MORE: Bosnia show fight against Argentina | Nigeria, Iran give us first draw of tournament ]
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LINEUPS

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Garay; Fede Fernández, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di María; Messi, Higuaín, Agüero

Iran: Haghighi, Hosseini, Sadeghi, Montazeri, Pooladi, Shojaei, Nekounam, Teymourian, Dejagah, Ghoochannejhad, Hajsafi

Talking points

Will reverting back to the Fantastic Foursome make Argentina fun again?
In their first group game against Bosnia, Alejandro Sabella sent his side out in a 3-5-2 formation, featuring five defenders rather than the much-hyped four-prong attack. A Bosnia own-goal put Argentina in front, but it was the Dragons that controlled most of the play during the first half. Argentina were noticeably better in the second half, after Gonzalo Higuaín came on to join Ángel di María, Sergio Agüero, and, of course, Lionel Messi. It’s the lineup Sabella is going for from the start this time around, so let’s hope it provides plenty of entertainment.

Will Iran’s defense hold out?
Coached by Carlos Queiroz, a man well known for favoring a defensive mindset, Iran was always going to be one of the – dare we say it? – duller sides to watch at this World Cup. Sure enough, they held Nigeria to a goalless draw in their first game. But Argentina’s got a little more bang up top than Nigeria, so Iran will need to be careful not to put a toe out of place. If they can master Bosnia’s art of triple-teaming Messi, they may come away with a point. Or they may simply come away thankful that they kept Argentina to two goals. Or, who knows, they may be yet another surprise in a tournament already packed with them.

Expectation
Iran do their best to hold firm and keep out Argentina’s potent offense, but Sabella’s tactical shift should mean there’s no way of stopping his fantastic foursome. Expect goals!

One blogger’s prediction
That this one will be much closer to what we expected from Argentina from the start. It should be a comfortable win for Messi & Co.

Petkovic: Time to “take Switzerland seriously” after Brazil draw

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While much of the talk about Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland will focus on the former, the Swiss would like their share of credit for frustrating — and matching — one of a handful of favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic is chief among those who believe it’s time those on the outside “start taking notice of us and taking us seriously.” As for the insinuations that his side roughed up Neymar, who suffered 10 of the 19 fouls committed by Switzerland, most of them were “very clean” — quotes from the BBC:

“Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well. We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.

“Most of the duels (with Neymar) were won in a very clean way. It was one of the key ingredients to neutralize Neymar.”

“I’m very proud and pleased with the discipline with the way we played. We worked collectively and cohesively.”

“When we are able to play forward and press higher up we were able to do it well and it is an excellent starting position for the rest of our group matches.

“We had real difficulties in the first 40 minutes, I said ‘let’s remain calm, focused and believe in ourselves, push up higher up the pitch and create opportunities to score.'”

Having secured a point in far and away their toughest group game, Switzerland now have eminently winnable games against Serbia (Friday) and Costa Rica (Wednesday, June 27) remaining. Four points from those two games would just about guarantee progression to the knockout rounds.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

Brazil waste Coutinho’s stunner, draw Switzerland in opener

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Brazil started brilliantly and raced out to an early lead, but the five-time World Cup winners — and one of a handful of favorites in 2018 — disappointed in the end as they settled for a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the two sides’ Group E opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after 20 minutes, turning home a stunning strike from distance, off the inside of the post, to settle any early nerves and give Tite’s Selecao a 1-0 lead (WATCH HERE).

It wasn’t Brazil’s first golden scoring chance of the game, though, as Coutinho and Neymar combined down the left wing to send the latter into space inside the penalty area. Neymar played a first-time cross into the six-yard box, but Paulinho‘s scuffed effort from close range was tipped around the post by Yann Sommer.

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A bit of complacency and real lack of urgency washed over Brazil as soon as they went ahead, affording Switzerland every opportunity to get back in the game.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side needed just five second-half minutes to draw level, thanks to some shoddy set-piece defending by Brazil. Steven Zuber took up a spot at the near post, virtually unmarked inside the six-yard box, and headed past Alisson.

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The game’s most controversial moment came just after the 70-minute mark, when Gabriel Jesus was bear-hugged inside the penalty area. Wrapped up from behind, the Manchester City forward was blatantly prevented from getting to the ball after a quick passage of smooth build-up, but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos was unmoved and no video review was enacted.

By the full-time whistle, Brazil had piled up 21 shots (just four on target) compared to just six from Switzerland (two). Despite on-target efforts from Neymar and Renato Augusto inside the game’s final five minutes, a winner wasn’t on the cards and the sides were forced to split the points.

Up next for Brazil is a clash with Costa Rica on Friday, while Switzerland will face Serbia the same day. The Serbs topped the Costa Ricans in Sunday’s first game, putting them top of the group after after the first of three rounds in Group E.

Video: Coutinho’s curler has Brazil flying early

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It took 20 minutes for the Selecao to get on the board, but Brazil looks every bit as good as advertised.

Tite’s side struck nearly halfway through the opening stanza when Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho curled his shot from distance off the inside of the post against Switzerland.

The Brazilians came close on several occasions prior to Coutinho’s opener, but the 26-year-old made good on the misses with his first career World Cup tally.