After a 3-0 loss to Brazil that put Argentina’s World Cup Qualification hopes in danger, the Albiceleste responded with a resounding 3-0 win against a tough opponent in Colombia.
Edgardo Bauza set up his team in a conventional 4-3-3, with Mascherano anchoring a midfield of Ever Banega and Lucas Biglia. In front of that trio were Di Maria, Messi, and striker Pratto.
Colombia went with the same formation, with James playing as a left-winger, but employed totally different tactics.
Whilst Argentina looked to dominate the ball and attack with aggression, Colombia were content to sit back and counter-attack through the flanks.
It was an understandable strategy given Argentina’s superiority on paper, but this was a side that was low on confidence, tactically questionable, and leaking goals. If there was ever a time to go aggressive against the Albiceleste, it was today, but José Pékerman blew it.
As a result of his decision to invite huge attacking pressure, Colombia were consistently faced with the skill and speed of Messi and Di Maria, something that drew plenty of fouls in dangerous areas of outside the box.
This allowed Messi to take pot shots from long-range, resulting in Argentina’s first goal of the evening.
Messi with a stunning free-kick tonight pic.twitter.com/CCpZKU2sFS— 90thMin ⚽️ (@90thMin) November 16, 2016
Stunned by the quick opener, Colombia quickly began to fall apart. Passes were misplaced with greater regularity, players lunged into challenges, and their team structure collapsed.
Messi, sensing all of this, continued to probe his opponents with relentless ferocity, eventually leading to Argentina’s second goal in the 23rd minute.
Messi with a great assist for Pratto to put Argentina up 2-0 against Colombia in a must win WCQ match https://t.co/SVHtHp96b3— Juan (@socraticjuan) November 15, 2016
If Colombia had lost their composure after the first goal, it was nothing to compared to what happened afterwards. Tempers flared and heads drooped, allowing Argentina to close out the first half without any trouble whatsoever.
The second half pretty much continued in the same vein, with Argentina occasionally upping the tempo and threatening to kill off the game. Despite Pékerman’s probably ruthless team talk, Colombia failed to improve, as they ended up giving the ball away to a harrying Messi, who teed up Di Maria to score a tap-in.
James Rodríguez’s Performance
James cut a frustrated figure on the pitch for most of the game. He argued unnecessarily for every foul not given to him, looked distraught at every misplaced past, and was disgusted when he missed a free kick in the dying moments of the game. Some might put it down to petulance, but he was legitimately the only player providing any quality for Colombia today. He created 2 chances, one of which should’ve been buried by Falcao, and did his best to help create play from deep and link-up with all his teammates.
But at the end of the day, James had little support from his squad members and was limited by Pékerman’s tactics.
Key Statistics: 59 touches, 2 key passes, 0/2 shots on target, 2 dribbles, 3 fouls drawn, 31/36 passes completed, 2/6 crosses completed, 6/6 long balls completed, 1 tackle, 1 interception
(All statistics taken from whoscored.com)