Copa America Round 1

Argentina, even with a win, would have remained under pressure for today’s game against Colombia. Now, even immense may be too weak a word.

The game versus Bolivia hardly had ideal circumstances, with the cold weather, and many delays. But if they couldn’t deal with that pressure, how are they going to deal with this? By far Argentina’s toughest opponent, more eyes than ever will be on the Argentine team.

Before the game, a few people might have foreseen trouble for Argentina, as good teams often take a couple games to settle in. Then there was the peculiar selection of Carlos Tevez, just a month earlier left for dead. Batista was giving in to media pressure. With everybody expecting at least a three-goal demolition, Argentina was always going to struggle living up to the hype

When Martins Moreno missed a great chance for 2-0, and Kun Aguero livened up the Argentina attack, they escaped with a point, but it hardly mattered, at least in terms of general opinion. Batista had got the tactics horribly wrong, and the crowd was horribly quiet, considering all the talent Argentina has

Lots of blame went to Lionel Messi, but it was Lavezzi and Tevez who should have had it.

Going into tonight’s game, Batista has several options tactically. If he wants to keep his Barcelona-style 4-3-3, it will be hard to leave Aguero out. Assuming Messi is in the center, there are five good options for the wing position: Ezeguiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero, both cutting inside with their darting feet, would be hard to resist, and would give Messi the chance to build on the flashes of chemistry we saw versus Bolivia. Carlos Tevez may start again, because of fan pressure, and Gonzalo Higuain, the always underrated Real Madrid man, might fit the position better thatn any striker. He would certainly give them something different in tonight’s game, giving Batista a good excuse to keep the 4-3-3. A traditional winger isn’t something Argentina lack either- Angel Di Maria or even Ever Banega.

In the second half, Messi dropped back, becoming the “1” in a 4-2-1-3 formation. With the many talented strikers Argentina has, how to fill up the three would again be Batista’s hardest choice in this formation. There are the concerns of having too many attacking players, playing Messi out of his natural position, and how they played while using this formation against Bolivia.

Even if Messi doesn’t drop back, the midfield needs to be shaken up. Why did they have such a defensive midfield, with only Ever Banega pushing  up slightly? Because the defensive midfielders are their best midfielders? You can’t make that mistake in soccer anymore, especially if you have your eyes set on playing a certain formation. The names Di Maria, Gago, and Pastore have been mentioned, regarding possible changes here.

Or are all the defensive midfielders there to hide the defensive weaknesses? Argentina have never been known for strong defense, and although the aging pair of Burdisso and Milito held together, Zanetti was poor and Rojo nonexistent.

If the tournament were being held somewhere else, Batista would have many chances to experiment. The ease of qualifying to the next stage means a win against Costa Rica B would be enough. Now though, what changes he makes against Colombia will be very interesting. It seems likely that they will be criticized.

Brazil, always glad when Argentina suffers, were doubly grateful, as it took attention off their draw with Venezuela. This game had the added bonus of being boring, so nobody paid too much attention to where Brazil had problems. Indeed, after the first thirty minutes, my focus turned to the percentage of Brazilian fans in the crowd (this is Argentina) and what exactly Dani Alves was thinking with that haircut.

At the beginning of the game, the tactics looked good, getting his best players in, while keeping five in midfield. In the end it put too much emphasis on Ganso, who is only 21.

Even throughout the first half, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Pato and Robinho played better with Milan, Dani Alves with Barcelona, and Ganso and Neymar with Santos than they were playing for Brazil. In the end, I put the most bleame in the attacking third on Robinho, considering Pato was very unlucky not to score, Neymar showed good dribbling and vision, and Ganso had so much resting on his shoulders at just 21, while Robinho vanished.

There were plenty of similarities with the Argentina game, from the long delays and poor pitch, to the individual talent impressing, while the team play failed. The pressure on the coaches, before, and ten times more after the game, was another similarity.

In the end, credit should go to the underdogs, who would do quite well in any other regions. Venezuela, a team on the rise, were totally underestimated, and totally succeeded in making the game scrappy.

Even Costa Rica, down to ten men, nearly held off Colombia, while Ecuador were happy with a point against Paraguay.

In Group C, the tournament finally got goals and entertainment. The last seeded team, Uruguay, also got only a draw. An interesting team to coach, they had similar problems as Argentina. Three great forwards, not quite on the same page, especially Cavani. Good defensive midfielders, with a lack of depth at play maker. Tabarez still used one, and they were indeed the best of the three seeded teams so far, at least offensively. The defense, good in South Africa, were very shaky, and the dual nature of the team also included the goalkeeper, who can be brilliant, or nervy. The problem is Muslera’s backup, Juan Castillo is very similar.

Like Batista, Tabarez  is unconvinced that moving his number 10, in this case Diego Forlan, would help. Forlan is getting older, and has so much potential at forward, it is hard to believe moving him to playmaker would help. And there is the pressure to drop the 4-3-3 formation, which does fit his players well.

Mexico almost made it another surprise, taking a  lead into halftime against the dominant Chileans. They kept attacking and won 2-1. Solid building blocks for both teams, then, heading into Chile’s titanic clash with Uruguay.

TRANSFER HEADLINES

-The Coentrao to Madrid deal is back on. Real will pay €30 million for the young defender. How will they fit Maicon into their squad, now?

-The full list of Malaga transfers this summer: Diego Buonanotte, Martin Demichelis, Joaquin Sanchez, Joris Mathijsen, Nacho Monreal, Sergio Sanchez, Jeremy Toulalan, and Ruud Van Nisterlooy. They had a good winter transfer season too. Their first game of next season: Barcelona.

-Ricardo Alvarez is going to Inter, not Arsenal. Interesting signing, because he doesn’t fit into the Inter formation. And he plays the same position Sneijder does.

-Tevez wants to leave Manchester. Don’t worry, soon he’ll want to stay. It doesn’t matter, though- nobody can afford him.

-Barca’s lack of money. They are still far away from the signings of Fabregas and Sanchez.

-Real Madrid also want Fabregas.

-The Premier League transfer season is in full swing, with De Gea to Man-U, Clichy to Man City, and Charlie Adam to Liverpool the biggest transfers so far.

-Javier Pastore is likely to leave, and the two Manchester teams, Chelsea, Napoli and Roma are his possible destinations.

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