If you look hard enough you are sure to find a silver lining in almost everything bad that happens. But after a scoreless draw with Colombia, Argentina fans may not even bother to look for a little glimmer.
In that case let’s make it easy – despite enjoying more possession and dictating large portions of the game Argentina could very well have lost this game.
Any hope that a rejuvenated Argentina would make up for a stuttering display last Friday against Bolivia was quickly put to rest against a defensively resolute Colombia side that simply relished the challenge of facing the home nation in front of a partisan crowd in Santa Fe.
Compared to Friday’s match there may have been a bit more jump from the Argentine side as they endeavoured to move the ball more quickly to the front three of Lavezzi, Messi and Tevez. But more times than not it was met with some excellent tackling from Colombia and a much greater threat on the counter-attack than Bolivia carried.
Colombia was unwavering in the centre of defence with Perea and Yepes exceptional as was Carlos Sanchez who sat just in front of he back four.
Argentina Coach Sergio Batista will no doubt come in for criticism after a second straight draw but he can’t be accused of not trying a number of different tactical approaches – especially in attack.
Lavezzi started wide on the right with Tevez on the opposite flank and Messi in the middle. Before the first forty-five minutes were up Batista had tried two other distinct formations. At one time he overloaded the left side of his attack with Lavezzi flipping over to join Tevez; then there was Tevez playing in the centre with Messi dropping deeper.
None of the changes made much difference. Clear cut chances for Argentina were few and far between with the best falling to Lavezzi after a delicious pass from Messi.
In fact Colombia created the better opportunities with Ramos skying one over the bar from six yards and Moreno missing an open goal about 12 yards out.
The second miss came after what looked like a foul and certain penalty kick after Burdisso felled Ramos after he had rounded the Argentina keeper Romero. A replay showed that Burdisso had in fact got a touch on the ball before colliding with the Colombian.
Any hope of an early second-half goal settling Argentina’s nerves – both players and the crowd – were neutralized by Colombia as they continued to battle Argentina in every area of the pitch.
Ominously for Argentina, Colombia looked more dangerous as the influence of Guarin grew and more mistakes crept into the home countries play.
Batista rang more changes and this time it was from the bench. A double substitution around the hour mark saw Cambiasso and Lavezzi replaced by Gago and Aguero. That was followed by Higuaín for the ineffective Banega.
Still the break-through goal did not come for Argentina. Rather it was Romero who saved Argentina’s blushes with two very good stops late in the match.
Colombia is guaranteed a spot in the last eight and a win over Bolivia would see them move on as group winners.
Sergio Batista is now caught between a rock and a hard-place. Argentina’s third and final group match is against the Costa Rica kiddies-side.
Does Batista stick with what has been his first choice side (10 players have started both matches) knowing that a win is almost certain and hope that this acts as a confidence booster? Or does he ring the changes and then feel obliged to stick with his “new” side when the knock out stage gets underway?
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