Friday, January 24, 2020

All Hope Is Not Lost For Argentina And Lionel Messi

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial 17 Jun 2019

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Argentina delivered a woeful performance in their 2019 Copa America. A lackluster display on both sides of the ball saw them fall 0-2 against Colombia, something that might complicate their chances to reach the knockout stages. Especially if they keep playing like this in the upcoming matches against Paraguay and Qatar.

However, Argentina must analyse things with perspective. There are several factors that point towards La Albiceleste bouncing back sooner than later in the tournament. Here are some of the reasons why Argentina fans can’t get into full panic mode following the disaster of the opening match.

Lionel Messi

Messi should be the lone reason why Argentina fans shouldn’t be into panic mode. With Neymar out of the Copa, Luis Suarez not on his 100% and Alexis Sanchez following a poor season at Manchester United, now more than ever there’s certainty over Messi being the top player in the tournament by an extremely wide margin.

Sure, he didn’t look at his best against Colombia. But Carlos Queiroz’s men are a contending side with a defensive line that’s already proven at the highest level. Expect Messi to bounce back and create havoc against two lesser defensive units such as the Paraguayan and the Qatari ones.

The toughest match (for now) is over

Argentina’s toughest match on the group stage was against Colombia. Therefore, now fans can sit back and relax for a bit. Both Paraguay and Qatar are underdogs against Argentina – regardless of how bad Argentina can play in the future. Los Guaranies are going through a painful rebuilding process, and Qatar… well, they’re simply not good enough to mount a challenge against La Albiceleste, regardless of the current form of both sides.

Paraguay and Qatar both exposed their deficiencies when they met this Sunday. While the reigning AFC Cup champions have an utter lack of tactical concepts on defence, Paraguay tend to leave lots of spaces when attacking. A team with the attacking quality of Argentina can easily exploit those issues and convert them into (potentially) six points and a spot on the knockout stages.

This team (and the manager) needs time

There aren’t many similarities between this Argentinian side and the one we have grown accustomed to see in recent years. Aside from Nicolas Otamendi, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, the rest of the players are mostly fresh, unfamiliar faces with a severe lack of experience in the international level.

Therefore, Argentinian fans must have patience – although that’s easier said than done. This is Lionel Scaloni’s first tournament as Argentina manager as well, so it’s not like he has a lot of expertise under his belt either. Fans need to wait because there’s still a lot of work to be done – both individually and collectively – before Argentina can reach its best version.

The best example is this. Let’s remove Otamendi, Aguero, Messi and Di Maria out of the equation. In that scenario, the rest of the starting XI against Colombia this past Saturday (Armani, Saravia, Pezzella, Tagliafico, Rodriguez, Lo Celso and Paredes) had a COMBINED 58 caps for the National Team. In other words, a mere less than nine caps per player on average. That lack of experience might prove deadly at the Copa America level.

The tournament rules

Last but not least, the tournament favours teams that lose in the opener. Considering two of the three-placed sides can reach the knockout stages, Argentina do not have their backs against the wall. At least not yet.

All La Albiceleste must do is to win one of their matches against Paraguay and Qatar, and get points in the other one. Taking four points against two lesser opponents sounds like something doable. And that tally should place Argentina in the quarterfinals with ease.

But they must take things one step at a time. And that next step is facing Paraguay on Thursday night.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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