By: Steve Mc Glynn
This year’s Copa América has reached the quarter-final stage and the tie of the round is undoubtedly Friday’s clash between Argentina and Colombia in Viña del Mar.
Argentina topped Group B with seven points out of a possible nine. They started the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Paraguay, throwing away a 2-0 half-time lead with an 89th minute goal for Paraguay,giving them a share of the points. Next up was current Copa América holders Uruguay and a single Sergio Aguero strike was enough to give Argentina victory. With their final group game against Jamaica being seen as a formality, it was only an early Gonzalo Higuain goal that separated the teams in the end.
Argentina have not won the Copa América for 22 years but went into this year’s tournament as favourites. As yet, they have not performed to their full potential and despite the attacking talents that they possess, it is their defence that has had to carry them through the group stages. At some stage they will hit form and manager Gerardo Martino will be hoping that Friday’s quarter final can be the catalyst for Messi and co to finally put in the sort of performance that they are capable of.
Like Argentina, Colombia have also looked below par so far in the tournament. Four points out of a possible nine was enough to see them qualify out of Group C as one of the best placed third-place teams. They kicked off the tournament with a 1-0 defeat by Venezuela but bounced back with a 1-0 defeat of Brazil, the game which was overshadowed by Neymar’s petulance. In their final game they drew 0-0 with Peru, a result that was good enough for both teams to qualify behind group winner Brazil.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman will know only too well what to expect from Argentina having been their manager from 2004 until 2006. However, Pekerman does have a number of issues to contend with before naming his team for Friday’s game. Captain Radamel Falcao is carrying over his stuttering form from his season with Manchester United into the tournament and has looked out of sorts in the three group games so far. Pekerman does have other options to choose from in the striking department, Porto’s Jackson Martinez being the obvious one, but it would be a big call to drop Falcao for the Argentina game. Pekerman will also be without his first choice midfield pairing of Edwin Valencia and Carlos Sanchez, as he looks to curtail Argentina’s attacking force.
Despite both teams performing below their best so far in the tournament, both will be more than aware that another sub standard showing will lead to them exiting the tournament so with the stakes so high it’s hoped that an exciting and captivating game will be on the cards.
Argentina are 1.5 (1/2) to qualify for the semi-finals and are 1.91 (10/11) to win in 90 minutes. Colombia can be backed at 2.9 (19/10) to qualify.