Argentina fail to spark in Colombia draw at Copa America

AFP, Thursday 7 Jul 2011

Argentina failed to make up for their disappointing opening draw against Bolivia when they could only manage another stalemate against Colombia, compromising their bid to reach the Copa America quarter-finals

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez, Argentina's Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi,center, Nicolas Burdisso and Gonzalo Higuain, in their Group A Copa America soccer match in Santa Fe (Photo: AP)

 Once again, despite on paper having an embarrassment of riches in an attack spearheaded by Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, the albiceleste on Wednesday managed to flunk what was their first ever competitive international in the northeastern city of Santa Fe.

 "They were tough opponents, they knew how to mark us," said Tevez afterwards.

"Things are not going for us right now the way we want them to," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista, who replaced Diego Maradona after last summer's World Cup. But he said he would still not make "major changes" for the final group game against Costa Rica as he maintained he was confident in his side.

 "We have a game against Costa Rica and if we win that we will have five points and go through. We have to keep calm," Batista insisted, adding he understood fans' frustration at the slow start to the event.

 Colombian counterpart Hernan Dario Gomez said he believed that his side "turned in a decent showing and I think we are laying the building blocks for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers," said Gomez, who added he still thought Argentina were a very capable side who would challenge for the Copa title.

Colombian defender Mario Yepes insisted his side were superior.

 "We played well and had chances to win it - that much is clear by the fact their keeper was man of the match," said the Milan star.

The hosts could easily have lost and would have had Dayro Moreno not missed a sitter on 25 minutes with the goal at his mercy following a mix-up in the Argentinian defence. Moreno also hit the side netting with another chance while Sergio Romero made a string of fine stops in the Argentine goal.

Colombia remain top of the group with four points having seen off the Costa Ricans, who meet Bolivia on Thursday, in their opening match.

A 40,000 crowd watched with horrified fascination as the team that had so laboured to find its feet against the Bolivians once again struggled to impress, showing no sign that it can end an 18-year trophy drought.

Messi's sloping shoulders and scowls told their own story but Batista left him and Tevez out there to soak up the full 90 minutes punishment.

The Argentinian coach added to his attacking options by throwing on opening-day scorer Sergio Aguero for Ezequiel Lavezzi on the hour and then Gonzalo Higuain for Ever Banega with 20 minutes remaining.

But still a breakthrough proved elusive in a dour game which had none of the drama of a hattrick of missed penalties by former albiceleste striker Martin Palermo in 1999 against the Colombians or indeed the latter's 5-0 romp in a World Cup qualifier in 1993.

Yet that was about all the home fans had to be thankful for - that at least they did not have to revisit either of those nightmares.

Now Costa Rica will have to be despatched Monday in Cordoba if the host nation are to repair their fading credibility while Colombia will be feeling relaxed as they prepare to face Bolivia on Sunday.

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