Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata scored the two goals for Los Cafeteros late in the second half.
Argentina began their Copa America in similar fashion as they ended their campaign in Russia- with disappointment. The first half against Colombia was cagey as both sides opted for caution instead of adventure given it was their first minutes in the tournament. Argentina struggled to build up from the back while Colombia mostly relied on counters to create their own chances but failed to test Armani during this period. They were successful in keeping Messi quiet in the first however.
In the second half, Argentina grew more into the game after Scaloni replaced Di Maria who looked invisible in the first half with Rodrigo De Paul and allowed Messi more freedom to move to the centre to influence play. La Albiceleste showed some pretty positive signs in the second half and tested Ospina a few times. Roger Martinez however scored a spectacular goal against the run of play and Zapata increased the lead when a desperate Argentina threw all their chips forward to look for the equaliser. There was no coming back for Messi and company who must identify both the negatives and positives from the game and turn it in their favour soon.
Here are the talking points from the game:
5. Incorrect substitutions from Lionel Scaloni?
While manager Lionel Scaloni started out with a decent starting XI against Colombia, he quickly realised that Angel Di María wasn’t getting enough space on the left flank where Juan Cuadrado and Medina thwarted any progress. To this end, Scaloni proactively introduced Rodrigo De Paul at the half-time break who had a better time than Di Maria. But with his other two substitutions, Scaloni seemed to have been off the mark.
Taking off Guido Rodriguez, he introduced Guido Pizarro as a like-for-like sub. Pizarro did not have any influence on the game whatsoever in midfield and failed to move into areas to receive passes and contribute in the build-up. Scaloni also took off his best number 9 in Sergio Aguero and brought on Matias Suarez when Argentina was chasing the score. Matias Suarez seemed extremely underwhelming and questions could be raised on why Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala weren’t given minutes.
4. Has Queiroz given managers in the Copa America hints on containing Messi?
Carlos Queiroz adopted to place a cage of players around Messi so that every time the Argentine skipper received the ball in the final third or was close to receiving possession, Tesillo, Davinson Sanchez often aided by Barrios and even Uribe swarmed close, converging on Messi and blocking passing lanes at the same time.
Managers of the remaining South American sides might opt to take a page out of Queiroz’s book and adopt the same approach against Messi if they face Argentina.
3. Should Argentina continue to build from the back and rely on possession?
With Scaloni’s Argentina, we still saw the same shades of Jorge Sampaoli’s side at the World Cup in Russia last year where the manager decides to build from the back even though the players aren’t exactly suited for that tactic. Otamendi, even though he is used to building up from the back with Guardiola‘s Manchester City looks a totally different figure with the national team and combined with Pezzella looked nervous.
The same can be said about Armani’s distribution which was often haphazard. In order to build well, a side needs to use the flanks well to stretch opposition defence but Saravia and Tagliafico could not do that enough. In light of all these issues, the question still looms large whether Argentina should adopt a completely different strategy.
2. Does Roger Martinez deserve to start in the tournament for Colombia?
The forward scored the breakthrough goal of the contest
Former Portugal manager Queiroz started with Radamel Falcao and Luis Muriel as his forwards. Muriel got injured pretty early in the game and as a result, Quieroz had to introduce Roger Martinez from the bench. The 24 year-old who plays for Club America in Mexico looked extremely sharp from the off and hit the ground running. His turns and pace proved to be a real thorn for Pezzella and Otamendi to contain and Martinez topped it off with a spectacular goal in the second half against the run of play.
Receiving a fantastic long ball from James Rodriguez, Roger Martinez left Saravia dead in the one-on-one battle, avoided Guido Pizarro’s challenge and found the top right corner with much aplomb leaving Armani helpless. His spectacular effort swerved the game in Colombia’s favour.
1. Should Scaloni give Lo Celso more protagonism?
Real Betis midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso was one of the bright sparks from a rather hapless Argentina performance. Lo Celso held the midfield and forward line together and found men with line-breaking passes while combining and linking up well with Lionel Messi. However, he was mostly limited to the right flank along with Messi in the first half where the duo was contained off the rest of the attack.
The lack of forward surges from Saravia did not help the cause either. Things improved in the second half when Messi drifted more towards the centre, but Scaloni should work on giving Lo Celso more freedom as an interior and also to combine with Messi because he has the creative spark in midfield that Argentina have lacked in a while and it would be a crime to not use it to its fullest.