• Ethan Singh

Copa America: Argentina Group Stage Review Part 1

Join me as I breakdown Argentina’s journey for South American glory this summer





After 12 months delay the Copa got underway just over a fortnight ago. The competition was switched last minute from original hosts Argentina & Colombia to Brazil due to Covid-19. However, with Brazil having the 2nd highest active cases in the world and by far the highest current deaths in S.America, that decision looks dodgily corrupt at best and dangerously harmful at worst in the midst of the pandemic.


With the Copa America lower on viewers due to the kick off times often being in the ungodly hours of the morning I decided to track Argentina’s progress in this tournament with the main lure being one of, if not the finest ever player to kick a ball - Lionel Messi.

Argentina have played all four of their Group A games so far so let’s look at how they fared as I do a mini- review on each game. (all statistical ratings either from sofascore or whoscored.com)


Matchday 1: Argentina 1-1 Chile (D)


Before the match, Argentina legend Diego Maradona was remembered in a holographic display of brilliance.

The first match was a familiar story for Argentina, Messi magic followed by throwing the game away with shambolic defensive mistakes and a lack of composure.


In truth, La Albiceleste should have scored at least four today with Messi at the heart of the playmaking. Lautaro Martinez was the opposite of clinical in front of goal, missing 2 golden chances and Nicolas Gonzalez also fluffed his lines in a fantastic position.


Scaloni’s decision to play the ageing Otamendi definitely raised eyebrows but he put in a fairly solid performance although he is worryingly vulnerable to pace. Argentina took the lead in the 33rd minute when Messi took responsibility to curl in a peach of a free-kick – his 73rd International goal.

Prior to the tournament the last 4 goals conceded by Argentina have all been individual mistakes and this pattern continued as Tagliafico gave away a penalty with a brainless challenge after a VAR review. Vidal's penalty was pushed on to the crossbar excellently by E.Martinez but Vargas was quickest to react and nodded in (57).





MotM: Lionel Messi (8.4 rating)


Pros:

- De Paul was the engine in midfield, shuttling up and down- just needs to work on final ball. His midfield partner Lo Celso was also excellent in the 1st half.

- Messi was at his best, running the show and scored one of his trademark free-kicks.

- Emi Martinez is a great shot-stopper and was really unlucky after saving the penalty.


Cons:

- Wasteful finishing – Lautaro Martinez missing two 1v1s, unacceptable as the main striker.

- Nicolas Gonzalez also missed 2 golden chances although he is much younger and inexperienced.

- Tagliafico looked shaky in defence and always had an error in him.

- Otamendi didn’t play badly but he looked slow and lumbering at times vs quick opponents.


Matchday 2: Argentina 1-0 Uruguay (W)


Argentina picked up their first win of the tournament in their second game with Messi inevitably involved with the winning goal. This time however, the defence managed to hold firm and not give away any silly penalties.

The only goal of the match was scored by Guido Rodriguez in the 13th minute. After a short corner was worked back to Messi, he beat his man with his characteristic drop of his shoulder and whipped in cross which Rodriguez headed in.



Uruguay have great talents boasting Suarez and Cavani up front, an experienced but lethal combo. Atleti centre-back Jose Gimenez is an accomplished defender and Godin has big-game experience. However, Argentina played well and clearly deserved to come out on top in this one.


Messi was Argentina’s biggest threat with some dangerous dribbles, sometimes beating 2 or 3 opponents only to get crowded out. If Argentina are going to go further he will need more support over the full 90 mins from his fellow attackers. The midfield was solid today with a nice balance and Rodriguez did his part with the winner. Likewise, the defence was well marshalled with 3 of the back 4 having been changed out. Acuna in particular had an excellent game while the composed Romero staked his claim for a starting berth.


Hopefully the attack can click into place over the next 2 games. Lautaro Martinez again missed an easy open goal rebound after Messi’s shot had been parried out to him.



MotM: Messi (8.0 rating)


Pros:

- Messi. Need I say more? When he’s not scoring , he’s assisting – an artist in the flesh.

- Guido Rodriguez was excellent, scoring on his first start. N.Gonzalez was much improved with his pace and directness although his finishing was still sketchy.

- Acuna for Tagliafico at LB has impressed far more. Solid positioning and great delivery on the overlap.

- De Paul built on a solid but unspectacular 1st game with an encouraging display here, moving the ball around quickly and providing a link between midfield and attack.


Cons:

- Lautaro Martinez again failed to get on the scoresheet and missed another few sitters which were put on a plate for him.

- J.Correa was poor off the bench, not offering any attacking impetus and being dispossessed easily.

- Molina was shaky at times and didn’t take his chance to make that RB slot his own.

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