Lionel Messi is throwing Argentina off steadiness

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The World Cup is the fruits of a course of. Groups have fought to be there. They’re battle hardened and prepared, clear about what they’re attempting to do.

The Copa America is the other. It’s the begin of a brand new course of, kicking off a brand new cycle of aggressive video games. That’s much more true about Brazil 2019. Qualification for the 2022 World Cup begins later than traditional — subsequent March relatively than this October. That has taken away a number of the urgency of the present match — seen most clearly within the case of Argentina, who’ve include an inexperienced caretaker coach.

Lionel Scaloni took over after Russia 2018 with a transparent thought in thoughts. He spoke of his perception in direct soccer, in speedy transitions relatively than elaborate midfield passing strikes. And in final 12 months’s friendlies he arrange his facet in accordance with this mind-set. He fielded two wingers, and the midfielders have been anticipated to ship the ball shortly into large areas.

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It was in all probability in Scaloni’s favour that Lionel Messi was taking a break from the worldwide recreation on the time. This isn’t a way of play made for Messi. Now he has returned — and as Saturday’s 2-Zero defeat to Colombia made very clear — Scaloni is caught between concepts.

The inclusion of Messi already robs Scaloni of one in all his wingers, making it very arduous to stretch the opposing defence and open up house. The opposite winger, Angel Di Maria, was unable to make any influence on the match as a result of the ball by no means got here his manner. Sometimes Argentina tried to go lengthy, with hopeful punts upfield predictably devoured up by the enormous Colombian defenders.

With the inclusion of Messi, Scaloni’s Argentina have been now not geared up to go the direct route. However they have been additionally unable to move their manner via the midfield, and thus deliver Messi and Sergio Aguero into play near the Colombian objective. Canny Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz packed the midfield, utilizing Juan Guillermo Cuadrado in an fascinating double perform; he would play his regular large function when James Rodriguez drifted throughout. However in any other case Cuadrado tucked infield, making the additional man via the centre, outnumbering Argentina and liberating the excellent Wilmar Barrios to maintain a watching transient on Messi.

Lionel Messi’s reintroduction to the group has thrown Argentina off steadiness. Wagner Meier/Getty Photographs

At halftime, his group having made no impression on the sport, Scaloni was pressured to desert his favoured thought. Off got here Di Maria. Argentina have been now left with no wingers. Rodrigo De Paul gave them the additional man in midfield.

Argentina started to work themselves greater up the pitch, placing some passing actions collectively within the Colombian half. It was higher, however there was little penetration. Completely right-footed out on the left, De Paul may solely successfully go inside, and so the play was all in entrance of the Colombian defence. Argentina had turn into the precise reverse of Scaloni’s unique intentions.

Even so, they almost took the lead. It took a second of magic to unlock the defence: Aguero’s backheel put Messi via, who sliced the again line in half however, earlier than Messi may pull the set off, Barrios was again to nip the ball away from him. And with Argentina greater up the sector, it then grew to become simpler for Colombia to catch their weak defence in open house.

Each occasions Argentina have been caught out by switches to their proper. The primary time got here from an impressive cross-field ball from James. It was all too comfy for Roger Martinez to gather, lower inside right-back Renzo Saravia and hearth throughout into the far nook.

The second got here after the belated introduction of centre ahead Duvan Zapata, who at all times seemed like being an excessive amount of of a handful for the Argentina centre-backs. He arrange the transfer, our bodies bouncing off him as he went cross-field, discovered Martinez, who slipped to the overlapping Jefferson Lerma. Saravia was performed out of the sport, after which Lerma’s cross lower out centre-backs German Pezzella and Nicolas Otamendi for Zapata to fireplace emphatically house.

The issue for La Albiceleste is that these gamers will not be out of the blue going to get higher. Argentina’s defensive woes are going to persist. What might change, although, is the general thought of play.

In opposition to Colombia, they fell ludicrously between two stools: Unable to play lengthy, after which with out the width to penetrate after they went quick.

However the Copa is simply starting. Eight of the 12 groups undergo to the quarterfinals. And one of the crucial fascinating features of tournaments is that they’ll function time sped up. Groups can out of the blue crumble, or they’ll out of the blue come collectively.

If Messi is to finish his nationwide group title drought this 12 months, then the second possibility must apply to Argentina.

 

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