Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez lauded “master of the ball” Lionel Messi after his side’s 1-0 loss to Argentina at the Copa America on Tuesday.
Sergio Aguero’s brilliant second-half header decided the contest as Argentina went top of Group B on four points.
Messi was his usual classy self, including setting up Aguero for a header that was saved by Fernando Muslera in the first half.
Tabarez was in awe of the Barcelona superstar.
“Now we have greater motivation for the last game against Paraguay, where we will play to qualify,” he told a news conference.
“We prepared a collective strategy today, but Messi is unpredictable, because you never know what he is going to do, there is always a surprise.
“He is a master of the ball, has great speed and mentally anticipates the movements of the defenders. He is always one second ahead.
“In this Argentina system, the ball is almost never straight down the left wing, they move diagonally from right to left and he knows he can be most dangerous when he carries the ball left and connects with Aguero.
“They have a close relationship, where Aguero picks the pass he wants and Messi puts it there.”
Aguero headed in the game’s only goal in the 56th minute, diving at a Pablo Zabaleta cross from the right.
Tabarez was disappointed by Uruguay’s failure to maintain possession better, as they were left in third spot in the group and a point behind the top two.
“We knew we were facing a very strong team, which makes keeping possession difficult. We did not control it as well as we would have liked, and as we had planned to,” he said.
“We were pinned back, and we found it difficult to create chances on goal. I’ve always said that teams in these tournaments, when there is little preparation time, are built during the championship.
“Obviously we will exclude those who already have plenty of experience like Argentina, who were great in qualifying and had a very good World Cup.
“They have almost all the same players, and they don’t need the time other teams need to rebuild and bring in young players.”