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June 7, 2014
• Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, La Plata, Provincia de Buenos Aires
Referee: Martín Vázquez
• Attendance: 53000
R. Álvarez 12'
L. Messi 76'
That's all we have time for from La Plata, as Argentine picked up a 2-0 international friendly win over Slovenia. I've been Simon Harrison and I hope to see you again next time.
Plenty of changes and a different formation for La Albiceleste tonight, but everything went according to plan for the hosts. Slovenia were fairly toothless, with little asked of Romero, with injuries and illness affecting Katanec's team selection.
FULL TIME! Argentina come out with a 2-0 victory against Slovenia, to continue their excellent home record and gain additional momentum heading into the World Cup. Goals from Ricky Alvarez and Lionel Messi were enough for Sabella's men.
90' + 4'
Argentina have one last opportunity, with Messi lining up a free-kick from 30 yards out. He curls a left-footed effort towards the top left hand corner, but Belec is happy to watch it wide. That should be that!
90' + 3'
Two desperate clearances from Slovenia, as Argentine press into the box with Di Maria once again. The Real Madrid man just can't seem to find the target! Although, his approach play has been good enough to justify his inclusion.
90' + 1'
We're into the first of three minutes of stoppage time.
Into the dying embers of the game, with Argentina not willing to surrender control, forcing Slovenia deep into their own half. Sabella will be pleased, his side have been composed and efficient in possession, with their offensive options consistently posing the opposition questions.
Di Maria and Messi combine on the edge of the penalty area, with the latter dancing round defenders far too easily. He's been a step above the likes of Lavezzi and Alvarez, showing why tonight's other goalscorer won't be featuring too often at the World Cup.
The home crowd is getting a little bit restless whenever Slovenia have the ball for longer than a minute. Enzo Perez is felled by a late challenge by Mertelj, but the referee opts to keep his cards in his pocket. A couple of substitutes are readying themselves for the away side on the sidelines.
Another chance for Slovenia, as the injured Stevanovic is taken off as a precaution. Maribor midfielder Mertelj replaces him. Di Maria is fed the ball by Messi on the edge of the penalty box, but can only curl an effort narrowly wide of the far post!
Brecko whips in a deep cross on the right, but Campagnaro is equal to it once again, with Jokic picking up the pieces. The Chievo left-back throws a second delivery in, but Pecnik can't get any contact on it. Disappointing from the away side.
Stevanovic goes down heavily, after being caught by a poor challenge from Gago. The Slovenian midfielder lands on his knee awkwardly, but gingerly returns to his feet. That could have been much, much worse.
Yellow Card Fernando Gago
Comfortable stuff for Argentina, who will be able to finish this game at a canter. Di Maria, Aguero and Messi have been very threatening and creative since coming on, sending out warning signals to all teams involved at the World Cup.
Mascherano takes his leave, following a wonderful performance from the cultured midfielder. He's broken up play well, as well as dictating play by displaying his brilliant passing range. Young midfielder Mammana replaces him.
Assist Sergio Agüero
GOOOOOOAL! LOVELY MOVE AND IT'S 2-0 TO LA ALBICELESTE! Messi and Di Maria combine with devastating effect, as a scooped pass from Di Maria is centred by a header from Aguero, allowing for Messi to stab home a poacher's effort. A wonderfully worked goal.
Di Maria gallivants down the left hand side, leading the Argentine charge, giving Messi the ball and allowing for the Barcelona man to continue to look extremely threatening in and around the box.
Fernandez does well to rise above Nokakovic and deny the 35-year-old the opportunity to control the ball with his chest with his back to goal. Slovenia have been fairly toothless, but the longer this game drags on with only a goal between the two outfits, the more belief they'll have of nicking a draw.
It's a party atmosphere inside the stadium, as a Mexican wave makes its way around those seated. Clearly the spectators are buoyed by the effective performance they've seen from Argentina this evening. Messi makes his way over to the physio to grab some gum.
Slovenia really aren't looking as though they have any offensive inspiration, with the absence of the likes of Kampl and Matavz really showing. There doesn't appear to be an instinctive goalscorer among Katanec's ranks.
Narrowly over 20 minutes to go and Argentina seem happy to sit back in shape and then release their star players. Aguero, Di Maria and Messi are being given the offensive responsibility, with the rest of Sabella's side looking simply to feed them.
Messi wants a penalty, but the referee says no! The Barcelona man turns Cesar inside out, but goes down far too easily, as the Slovenia defender didn't really stick out a leg. The Argentina talisman affords himself a smile.
Aguero races to the byeline on the left hand side, before firing a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal! Nobody is on hand to turn the ball home at the back post, with the La Plata crowd drawing a collective breath. Sabella's substitutions have certainly made a difference.
DI MARIA! The Real Madrid man drives towards the edge of the penalty box, before unleashing a shot from 25 yards. He gets his angles wrong, dragging the ball wide of the target - though Belec was worried.
So close for Di Maria! Messi goes on a magical run, weaving in between several defenders and stabbing a through ball into his teammate. Di Maria takes a touch, but is robbed of possession just inside the penalty area - that was great build up play from the Barcelona maestro.
Less than half an hour for Argentina's substitutes to make an impact. Messi tries his luck from 30 yards, curling a free-kick attempt towards goal, but Belec is equal to it.
The four Argentine changes receive huge roars from the crowd, with Lionel Messi taking the captain's armband. The hosts will be expecting plenty from the substitutes, with nothing other than a comfortable win satisfying their expectation. Lazaravic directs a shot towards goal, but it's straight at Romero from eight yards! That was a big chance.
Well, Argentina are now presumably going for the jugular. Aguero, Messi, Di Maria and Gago are about to make their way onto the field for La Albiceleste. This evening just got a lot more difficult for Slovenia.
Ángel Di María
RICKY! Sabella continues to keep his cards close to his chest, though the Argentine substitutes are routinely coming out for a brief jog. Sarmardzic is turned inside out by Lavezzi, before the PSG man rolls a backheel into the path of Alvarez. Belec sticks out a leg to kick away the effort from the Inter man!
Great defensive challenge from Rojo! The left-back tracks Pecnik down his flank, recovering brilliantly to slide in and put the ball behind for a corner. The set piece is terribly executed, however, heading directly out of play on the far side.
Mascherano picks up a yellow card, as he slides in on Brecko and gets none of the ball. There wasn't a great deal of contact, but it was a late lunge from the former Liverpool midfielder. Sabella's men are composed and patient in possession, probing their adversaries well.
Yellow Card Javier Mascherano
Argentina start the second period in control, with Slovenia reluctant to press and chase too much. This has been a good challenge for La Albiceleste, as they've held their shape well, but also have been able to pick apart the visiting defence with high tempo patterns of play.
Two other changes for Slovenia at the break, with Pecnik and Lazarevic coming into the fray alongside Samardzic. Big cheers go up in the stadium, as the likes of Messi and Aguero head out from the bench to warm up.
No real changes for Argentina, as Mascherano continues to sit in front of the defence following the introduction of Campagnaro earlier in the game. Rojo tries to get around substitute Samardzic at right-back, but fouls the Slovenia defender in the process.
We are underway in the second half at La Plata! Argentina hold a 1-0 lead thanks to Ricky Alvarez's sweet strike, but there are another 45 minutes to play before the hosts can cast their minds to Brazil. More importantly, Sabella will hope not to pick up any more injuries.
Be sure to rejoin us in ten minutes for all of the second half action, as Argentina look to continue in the same vein and take winning momentum to Brazil. Plenty of top class options on the bench for the home side, with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain lying in wait.
Belec has had to make a couple of good saves to deny the likes of Rojo and Maxi Rodriguez, with Slovenia really struggling to penetrate the organised sky blue and white lines of Argentina. Javier Mascherano has been simply excellent in the centre of defence.
HALF TIME! Job done in the first half for Argentina, as far as Sabella will be concerned! Ricky Alvarez's first goal for La Albiceleste has given the hosts a slender lead, with the only negative point of the opening 45 minutes coming in the shape of a knee injury for Lucas Biglia.
Only a few minutes until the end of the first half. Brecko tries a cheeky volley from long-range, but it bobbles through for Romero to collect with ease. The Argentina goalkeeper has had a solid first half, he'll surely start as Sabella's number one at the World Cup.
Brilliant defensive header from Campagnaro! Ilicic stands up a dangerous cross to the back post, with Novakovic rising well to challenge with the Inter man. Fortunately for the hosts, the substitute is able to beat his Slovenian adversary to the ball, diverting it out of play for a throw-in.
Slovenia are being allowed a spell on the ball, with Argentina happy to hold their shape and remain resilient. Romero hasn't had a save to make, with Sabella's three at the back not being exposed whatsoever. Rojo and Fernandez have been able to tuck in on the flanks well.
Argentina are working their way up the field silkily at the moment, with this eleven linking up well despite plenty of rotation. La Albiceleste are holding their shape well and denying the away side anything in way of even a half chance.
Ilicic whips in a free-kick delivery from deep on the right, but doesn't get any clean contact on the ball. It bobbles into the penalty area, with Alvarez on hand to hook it away. Romero hasn't had a great deal to do thus far.
An audacious effort from Rotman, as the midfielder opts to shoot from 40 yards. Romero is happy to watch it over his crossbar, with the home crowd jeering the Slovenian's attempt. Less than ten minutes until the interval, with everything going well for Sabella's men.
Yellow Card Dalibor Stevanovic
MAXI! Great save by Belec! The Slovenian third choice goalkeeper rises acrobatically, tipping the former Liverpool forward's 25 yard effort onto the crossbar! It cannons off the woodwork and clear of the danger zone!
ROJO! It's that man again! Lavezzi controls a beautiful pass from Mascherano, with Rojo stealing the ball from his teammate's toe and poking a tame effort into Belec's midriff. Slovenia survive yet again.
Brecko breaks down the right yet again, with the majority of action for both sides coming from that flank. Rojo has been throwing some excellent balls into the box, but perhaps this Argentina line-up isn't as suited to a direct style as one with Palacio included.
Romero is quick off his line to deny a chasing Novakovic. The Japan-based forward has struggled physically in the opening stages, as he hasn't got the pace to get in behind the three defenders of Argentina. The Monaco goalkeeper gets a thumbs up from his coach.
It doesn't appear that the home crowd will be happy unless Argentina press forward with every single attack! Any negative decision is met with whistles, as well as any long period of possession for Slovenia. Katanec's men are struggling.
Yellow Card Rajko Rotman
MAXI! The home crowd are starting to get on their team's back once again, urging them forward. Mascherano picks out a gorgeous through ball, straight to the feet of the unmarked Newell's Old Boys man, but Maxi can only strike at Belec!
Slovenia finally have a short spell of possession, after a lengthy period spent in their own half. Brecko whips a dangerous cross into the centre of the penalty area, but Campagnaro hoofs the bobbling delivery behind for a corner - which Romero punches away with confidence.
Rojo whips another good cross into the penalty area, but Lavezzi can't quite get on the edge of it. Mascherano spreads play out to the left again moments later, with the 24-year-old delivering yet another great ball. He's proving to be a great early outlet.
As we edge past the 20 minutes mark, Argentina continue to come to the boil. Sabella's men aren't in full flow, but are already more than a match for Slovenia. Should La Albiceleste call upon their dangerous substitutes late in the contest, the visitors could be in real trouble.
Yellow Card Andraz Kirm
Enzo Perez is cynically brought down by Kirm, as the wide man commits what can only be described as a forward's tackle. Argentina have a dead ball situation in a dangerous area, but Rotman puts his head on the line to turn the devilish delivery over his own crossbar - earning a free-kick for his side due to an Argentine push.
Argentina's three men at the back are allowing for plenty of width from the wing-backs, with Mascherano more than happy to step out of the defensive line and dictate play. The Barcelona man is playing in a libero role. The experimental formation without Messi is working fairly well.
Ilic manages to make a vital interception, as Argentina start to thread forward some interesting balls with regularity. Slovenia did start positively, but have been camped in their own half for the last ten minutes. The European side are under siege at the moment.
Lavezzi is causing a few problems with his movement up front for the home side, who are settling down nicely after a sluggish start. Ricky hasn't been involved all too often, but that wonderful long-range strike is certain to place the Inter midfielder in Sabella's thoughts.
Goal Ricardo Álvarez
GOOOOOOOOOAL! RICKY ALVAREZ FIRES HOME FROM 20 YARDS! It's his first for Argentina, who have the lead! Biglia is certainly in the wars and leaves the field for some extensive treatment. He looked to clash knees with an opponent.
Argentina want a penalty! Stevanovic throws himself wholeheartedly into a challenge, but the referee deems that the Slovenia defender won the ball from Lavezzi. The PSG man gets up gingerly.
Biglia picks up a knock early on, but the Argentine midfielder is okay to continue. Rojo whips a good ball into the box after beating Brecko, but Belec is able to claim under no pressure.
The whistles are deafening in the stadium, as the home fans urge their team forward. The likes of Ricky Alvarez and Maxi Rodriguez haven't seen a great deal of the ball yet, with Lavezzi anonymous. Plenty of these players are featuring in order to prove a point to their manager that they should be involved in Brazil.
First five minutes have passed without incident, with Slovenia foraying forward with more luck. The likes of Kurtic and Ilicic certainly have some quality to hurt Argentina, should the home side allow them too much time on the ball. A few early groans from the hosts' supporters.
Basanta makes a good interception to deny a lofted through ball from Kirm, as Novakovic looked to ghost in behind the Argentine defensive line. It does appear that La Albiceleste are going to be starting with three at the back, as Sabella explores his options.
Just to mention Slovenia's substitutes, who have been late to be released: Mertelj, Struna, Janza, Balazic, Firer, Oblak, Samardzic, Pecnik, Bezjak, Lazarevic.
We're underway in a rather damp La Plata! The hosts are expected to pick up a confidence-boosting victory today, while testing their possible 3-6-1 formation to see how they can fare without key man Lionel Messi. Slovenia have some interesting players on show, however, meaning that Sabella's men wouldn't be wise to underestimate their adversaries.
The players are out on the field, with La Albiceleste in their traditional sky blue and white kit. Two rotated starting elevens, but there should be enough quality on show to result in an entertaining game. Given the location, of course, Argentina's national anthem is met by real enthusiasm by a seemingly buoyant and expectant crowd.
Argentina substitutes: Di Maria, Orion, Gago, Higuain, Campagnaro, Messi, Andujar, Zabaleta, Palacio, Aguero.
Slovenia starting line-up: Belec; Brecko, Cesar, Ilic, Jokic; Stevanovic; Ilicic, Rotman, Kurtic, Kirm; Novakovic.
Argentina starting line-up: Romero; F. Fernandez, Mascherano, Basanta; A.Fernandez, Biglia, Perez, Rojo; M. Rodriguez, Lavezzi, Alvarez.
Slovenia are missing plenty of first team names, with the likes of Inter's goalkeeper Handanovic, Valter Birsa, Kevin Kampl and Tim Matavz not participating in this evening's fixture. A quarter of an hour until kick-off, so be sure to stick around for all of the action!
TEAM NEWS: 35-year-old Milivoje Novakovic gets a start in attack, supporting Groningen's Andraz Kirm. Domestically-based Rajko Rotman will feature in midfield, while Josip Ilicic will be asked to play a major creative role. Bostjan Cesar and Bojan Jokic, long-term teammates at Chievo form half of the defence. There's certainly a big gap in quality between the two sides!
TEAM NEWS: Mascherano celebrates his Barcelona contract renewal with a start for the national team, with Biglia and Perez also featuring in midfield. Inter's Ricky Alvarez and PSG's Lavezzi are deployed in attack, as Sabella opts to give plenty of bit-part players a run out from the off. Plenty of individual points to prove, with the likes of Messi on the bench should the game not go to plan.
I'm Simon Harrison and I will be keeping you fully updated with all of the action from Buenos Aires, as La Albiceleste attempt to head to Brazil in good form. A couple of key man are rested, as Sabella wraps his stars in cotton wool - probably wise given the number of injuries to world-class players recently.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Argentina's international friendly against Slovenia, as Alejandro Sabella tries out a few different attacking options ahead of the World Cup. Fresh off the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago, the home side will be hoping for more of the same. After suffering defeat against Uruguay merely two days ago, Slovenia will be hoping to fare better against South American opposition tonight.
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