By Steve Mitchell
Overwhelming pre-tournament favourites Argentina have put qualification to the knockout phase of the 2015 Copa America in jeopardy after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Paraguay
Agüero and Messi show
It had all started so good for the 2014 World Cup finalists. Two goals up inside the first half hour thanks to goals from Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero and a penalty from Lionel Messi, the game seemed all but finished.But a splendid second-half recovery from the 2011 runners-up stunned Messi and Co and ripped Group B wide open.
Defending Champions Fail To Convince
Tuesday’s opponents Uruguay also made a shaky start to the defence of their crown on Saturday afternoon with an unconvincing 1-0 win over tournament debutants Jamaica. In the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez, the pressure on PSG striker EdinsonCavani to lead his team to glory looked evident as the player who scored 18 goals for his club side last season, looked out of sorts from the first whistle. A goal seven minutes after half-time from midfielder Cristian Rodríguez was enough to get the holders over the finishing line.
The Key Men
A win for Uruguay on Tuesday evening would seal their passage into the last eight of the competition and legendary coach ÓscarTabárez has two aces up his sleeve in Athletico Madrid’s centre-half pairing of Diego Godín and JoséGiménez. Godin a former teammate of Agüero’s at the Spanish club, knows all about the Argentine striker and his 20-year-old defensive partner, who was outstanding in La Liga last season, showed he is more than capable going forward having had a big hand in his teams winning goal on Saturday.
Lionel Messi will once again be centre of attention for Argentina and he has called for his team to “put Saturday’s result behind them” and to focus on Tuesday’s opponents. Coach Gerardo Martino will want to see more from PSG midfielder Javier Pastore who has the undoubted ability to unlock the meanest of defences but whose erratic form at international level is always a cause for concern.
Martino has serious choices to make ahead of Tuesday evening but it seems likely he will give the XI who started the match on Saturday a chance to make amends. Agüero looks set to lead the line for Argentina once again alongside Messi and Manchester United’s Ángel di Maria so that will mean only a place on the substitute’s bench for Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain.Both failed to make an impression after coming on for the final 15 minutes in La Serena.
Tabárez may also keep faith with the side who narrowly got past Jamaica but could opt for a slight tactical adjustment, playing Boca Juniors midfielder Marcelo Lodeiro in a more advanced role.Cavani will again form part of a two pronged attack alongside Bordeaux’s Diego Rolan. Saturday’s match winner Rodriguez, should be preferred to highly rated Cruziero youngster GiorgianDe Arrascaeta in midfield as Uruguay look to defend their unbeaten run in Copa America final’s which stretches back to 2007.
Our Probable Formations:
Argentina (4-3-3) Romero; Rojo, Otamendi, Garay, Roncaglia; Banega, Mascherano, Pastore; di Maria, Agüero, Messi
Uruguay (4-3-1-2) Muslera; A.Pereira, Godin, GiménezM.Pereira; Rodriguez, Arévalo, Sánchez; Lodeiro; Cavani, Rolan
Head to Head
The two sides have met each other on 13 occasions in tournament football,with Argentina having the upper hand having won eight of these. Uruguay have four victories and there has only ever been one draw – back in 2001 in the World Cup qualification phase. The teams met in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America and although the game finished level after 120 minutes, Uruguay went through on penalty kicks.