A seemingly straight forward group was turned upside down as hosts Argentina made a meal of qualification. Leaving it to the last game to secure a Quarter Final berth but could so easily have missed out entirely. Colombia topped the group after some impressive performances but Bolivia and Costa Rica after indifferent results will be heading home.
La Plata hosted the first game of the tournament as an expectant Argentine nation demanded victory in the first game against Bolivia. The Bolivians obviously hadn’t read the script.
This is the tournament that will bring success back to Argentina was the cry. It’s been 18 long years since a title and Bolivia certainly done their best to cause unrest during the first game. They defended stoutly throughout the match and stopped Argentina getting any real chances. After a successful first half Bolivia took the lead early on in the second with Rojas back heeling in from a corner through the legs of Ever Banega. A move that incapsulated Argentina’s failings for almost the last two decades.
After some much needed changes, new boys Di Maria and Aguero combined to equalise with a sweet volley past the outstretched Arias as the opening match ended in an uninspiring 1-1 for Argentina, but a morale boosting result for the Bolivians.
Colombia were up next against an experimental Costa Rican squad. Los Cafeteros were seen as dark horses for the Copa before the games started but have perhaps propelled themselves to one of the favourites after a convincing set of performances. The red card Costa Rica’s Brenes received in the 28th minute did help Colombia get off to a winning start.
Adrian Ramos provided the goal in the 1-0 win and outshone his more illustrious team mate Falcao. He gave the Costa Rican defence a torrid time in an otherwise uneventful match.
Colombia faced the hosts in the second round of matches in an intriguing 0-0 draw. Much like the first game Argentina huffed and puffed there way around the field without ever looking menacing. If it wasn’t’ for an astonishing open goal miss by Moreno or Romero’s numerous saves against the Colombian attack Argentina would’ve lost. Colombia must have had mixed feelings coming out of that game, 0-0 was a fine result but they could have had so much more.
Despite Colombia failing to capitalise on a poor Argentina team, the missed opportunity award must go to Bolivia. After an impressive opening game they contrived to implode against Costa Rica and blow a good chance of getting past the first round since 1999. Martinez and Campbell scored the goals in a 2-0 win for under strength Costa Rica. Campbell proved a real nuisence for Bolivia, constantly cutting in from the left and drawing a foul late on to see Rivero join compatriot Flores in seeing red as the Bolivians finished with nine.
Going into the final round of matches Colombia easily saw off the threat of Bolivia. Two first half goals from Falcao saw the Bolivians finish bottom and Colombia nab top spot. A really disappointing finish to Bolivia’s campaign after a much talked about start against the hosts.
But it was all to play for in Cordoba where after much speculation Batista made some major changes. A 4-2-3-1 was favoured ahead of a 4-3-3. Tevez, Lavezzi, Banega and Cambiasso were dropped in favour of Gago, Di Maria, Aguero and Higuain. The change around worked as finally Argentina flicked the switch.
This was a Costa Rican side led by Argentine La Volpe who would have dearly loved to get one over on Batista. A war of words has ensued since 2006 between the two. Batista has previously criticised La Volpe’s knowledge of Argentine football, bringing up the fact La Volpe has spent most of his career away from his native land. La Volpe hit back saying “He (Batista) was in a bunker and now he is the coach of the Argentinian national team” clearly disgruntled at Batista’s lack of managerial experience that saw him get the top job. La Volpe would be even more unhappy that Batista’s Argentina won 3-0 in a comprehensive win.
The signs of despair that followed the Colombia match were quickly forgotten as Messi finally started to get going. The little man we all know and love set up two of the three goals and was at the heart of everything the team did. Aguero took some of the headlines for his double and Di Maria added a third. The pair who had come on in the previous two matches to spark Argentina have surely now shown Batista they are worthy of a starting berth on a more regular basis, starting with Saturday’s Quarter Final against rivals Uruguay.
An interesting group more off the pitch than on, but worthy of our viewing regardless. Argentina will certainly need to step up their game another notch if they are to progress any further in the tournament. While a clash with Peru awaits Colombia. With the winners of each game facing off in the Semi.
Group A showed all the trials and tribulations football has to offer in small doses. From the turmoil and despair for Argentina that eventually ended in relief. While Colombia emerged through the gloomy cliche of dark horses to become worthy contenders. Costa Rica had the idea of developing for the future and have potentially unearthed a star in Campbell. But Bolivia came with nothing but hope and after a good start left with only despair, again.