ARGENTINA’S LONG, HARD GROUP STAGE
Lionel Messi stood, head down, shoulders slumped, in the 81st minute of a 0-0 draw with Colombia, as his fans booed, and his critics prepared to write yet another article about how he only played well in the Barcelona system.
Feeling even worse was Sergio Batista. A second uninspired game, a second draw which should have been a loss.
Against Bolivia, Messi had thrived, slipping wonderful passes and masterful dribbles through a heroic Bolivian defense. His teammates thanked him by scuffing shots, and leaving him to do his dribbling alone.
When Batista kept faith in the same 11, Hernan Dario Gomez pounced. A 4-1-4-1, with Messi and Zanetti neutralized. For Argentina, the inconsistent forwards, the unbalanced midfield, the flashes of creativity and chemistry kept Batista hesitant to change. If Aguero had played for longer, or Higuain, who knows how it would have ended up.
The defense had- has- problems too. In the first game, it was Zanetti and Rojo who played poorly. In the second, it was Burdisso and Milito. Colombia had the three best chances.
That brings us back to the 81st minute. When Lionel Messi took his worst free kick ever, the writing was on the wall.
Meanwhile, Bolivia collapsed against Costa Rica. The seemingly staunch defense collapsed, allowing two goals, and a saved penalty kick, and getting two red cards, one out of frustration. The draw with Bolivia looked worse and worse, and Costa Rica, the next opponent, looked better and better.
The result helped Argentina, though, and Batista finally made his changes.
Game three started no different than the first two. How that would change.
Messi was back to brilliant, but Higuain missed one, two, three chances. Burdisso hit the crossbar, but that only made it worse. And then Aguero once again saved La Albiceleste, the only player who could score. Costa Rica broke- Messi put Aguero in space for number 2, and Higuain in for a chance even he couldn’t miss. He did. No matter- Di Maria got a fine ball and made it count, Messi himself was denied by super goalkeeping, and Lavezzi slid a shot off the post. But it was all smiles now.
” Suarez just can’t miss from there!”
“Forlan surely… just over!
“Diego Forlan still can’t score!”
Despite playing the best football in the tournament, Uruguay have only scored three goals. They got their money’s worth, punished by being forced to play against Argentina, suddenly hot, and with home-field advantage.
And it’s not just the offense which has been underperforming. The on paper strong defense has been off-key. They don’t have very much depth on defense.
Luckily for them, Alvaro Pereira is proving to be a better finisher of Suarez’ assists than Diego Forlan.
-Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez: The teamwork was fabulous. Can they score?
-Sergio Romero: Batista can be comforted by the fact that he has a good goalkeeper, with no pressure on him, unlike Carrizo.
-Javier Mascherano and Walter Gargano: The battle for midfield. The team which has the better of these two players will likely win the match.
– Alvaro Pereira: With Argentina playing nobody but Zabaleta on the right, Pereira could run riot.
FOUR REASONS URUGUAY WILL WIN:
1. The finishing can’t be bad forever: If Uruguay ever takes all it’s chances, it could dominate any team.
2. They are the perfect team to exploit Argentina’s defensive weaknesses.
3. Muslera is in the form of his life: We saw in the World Cup what this team could do with an in-form goalkeeper.
4. An extra player should win the midfield: With Cavani injured, Tabarez should go with a 4-4-1-1, while Argentina only has two or three midfielders. Add this to the victories on the left flank, and against the defense, and Uruguay should control possession, and the game.
FOUR REASONS ARGENTINA WILL WIN:
1. Uruguay has it’s own defensive problems.
2. Simply more talented: No other team has Aguero or Messi.
3. They’ve only allowed one goal: The defense has held together, and doesn’t need to be great, with all the talent in front of it. They’ve controlled their games, and with home field advantage, and the offense playing like it did against Costa Rica, the defense should be fine.
4. Deeper bench: Even without Lavezzi, the list of offensive options is long and talented. Meanwhile, the defensive substitutes are just as good as the starters.
ARGENTINA 2-2 URUGUAY ( 4-2 P.S.O)
This game could end 4-3, but both teams might play slightly more defensively than in the group stages. With Uruguay’s four-man midfield, this should favor them. But Argentina’s wealth of attack will turn on when it matters most, tying the game at two. If the game does reach penalties, and it is the most likely of the quarterfinals to do so, Argentina could get boosted by their home crowd. Or they could once more let the pressure get to them.