Argentina: From Concern To Panic

Posted on July 7, 2011 by

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Two games into the Copa America and things aren’t looking rosy for Sergio Batista and Argentina. Two points from two games see’s La Albiceleste teetering on the brink of elimination should they lose to Costa Rica next Monday.

It’s at difficult times like these that international manager’s earn their money. Batista is required to step up to the plate and make some tough decisions in the coming games. I fully expect Argentina to beat an understrength Costa Rica team on Monday. But unless they improve drastically it will be a swift exit in the next round no matter who they face.

A defiant Batista came out last night and refused to make “major changes” to the starting line up despite admitting the team is still lacking something.

“I remain confident about these players, they are are very good. We’re a little slow in the front…..we will play with two defensive midfielders and maybe one more winger, one man is missing in the area.”

Who this “missing’ man might be is likely to be Aguero, who has been the only chink of light in both games so far.  The current Atletico striker lit up the opening match with a sublime volley with the cross coming from another potential “missing” man Angel Di Maria.  One or perhaps both, must be up the pecking order to start Monday’s crucial group game.

Batista’s appointment was met with more than a few raised eyebrows going into the tournament. The same people with raised eyebrows will probably be developing a frown right about now. Batista was appointed with a less than stellar CV. The only triumphant highlight being Olympic gold with the national team at Beijing 2008.

Argentina’s group for the Copa America and passage to the latter rounds was on paper the easiest of all the top seeds. We all know the quality Argentina has. We also know that so far they have not shown an ounce of the class needed to win a big tournament.

Bolivia frustrated Argentina in the opening match

The opening game against continent minnows Bolivia was the perfect way to start the tournament. A raucous crowd in La Plata cheered on Argentina and for the first ten minutes or so it looked like it would be just be a matter of time before the deadlock was broken. But which world class Argentine would it be? Messi? Lavezzi? Tevez? The answer was of course none. A resoloute Bolivian team held firm and were rarely troubled for the whole match if truth be told.

The second half saw shock within in the first few minutes as Edivaldo Rojas backheeled the ball between Ever Banega’s legs. Banega’s slow reaction is not too dissimilar to what’s been happening on the field as a whole. Of course Aguero equalised late on with a stunning volley but the game in general was a real warning for what was to come.

It was there for all to see on Wednesday night against Colombia. Messi burying his face into his shirt was a metaphor for the performances so far. Some looked like they wanted to hide, Lavezzi looks more and more like a clueless bull in a china shop and Cambiasso just looks lost at times. If it wasn’t for a man of the match performance by Romero and some awful finishing, Colombia would have secured top spot already. Let’s also not forget Romero’s one on one save against Marcelo Martins late on in the opening match. Argentina could easily be sitting bottom of the group with zero points.

It’s not all doom and gloom, there have been glimpses of brilliance. Aguero’s goal against Bolivia being the undoubted highlight. Some of the link up play between Messi and his co-horts has been sublime. But the amount of chances created against Colombia was especially disappointing considering that top spot is now out of their hands.

Want away Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez sums it up best “Good Players all over the place. But if you don’t have a team, you don’t exist” very cold words coming from inside the squad. A quote such as that is usually reserved for the newspapers but we can’t argue that the players know they are not playing up to scratch.

If the Argentine players were concerned after the game against Bolivia. The feeling has taken a massive jolt up the ladder to severe with outbreaks of panic for the Group A showdown with Costa Rica.

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Posted in: South America