Argentina vs Colombia: a small preview

Argentina host Colombia tonight at 6pm Argentine time (10pm British Summer Time) on the kind of pitch that even Wembley Stadium Ltd. would be embarrassed to see England play on. After Argentine rock band Los Piojos played in El Monumental last Saturday, the AFA have – wait for it – painted bits of the pitch green to make it look a little less shabby. Really. And all this against the only country ever to have beaten Argentina in a World Cup qualifer in Buenos Aires – a defeat that led to current manager Diego Maradona’s return to the selección. It should be interesting.

That 0-5 defeat to Colombia in 1993 is a scoreline that still echoes across South America when the two countries meet, and was one more reason, at the time, for the Colombians to feel they had a real chance at the World Cup in the USA which followed – their elimination due partly to Pablo Escobar’s infamous own goal, leading to his murder weeks later, was the tragic closing chapter.

From Argentina’s point of view, though, the defeat led to a playoff against Australia to qualify for USA ’94, for which Diego Armando Maradona, signed by Newell’s Old Boys to get some playing time again, returned to the team. It’s fitting then, that after another five-goal twonking (the amazing 6-1 win for Bolivia in La Paz in the last qualifier), this time under Maradona, Colombia are the next opposition. This is, as captain Javier Mascherano says, a chance ‘to demonstrate that the Bolivia match was an accident.’

The Liverpool midfielder will be winning his 48th cap tonight (the starting XI is here, in case you missed it yesterday, and is now confirmed), and is aware that as well as the need to improve on the last result, there’s also no room for error in the qualifying campaign as a whole. With four matches remaining, Argentina are fourth in the qualifying table. A win tonight over Colombia (sixth, five points behind their hosts) would virtually secure at least the fifth playoff place for the Albiceleste, but it’s a mark of the iffy campaign they’ve had that their sights are set thus. The chance of defeat doesn’t bare thinking about – it could leave Argentina in fifth place, only two ahead of Colombia, if Uruguay beat Brazil in Montevideo in this weekend’s big international clásico.

The pitch, then, could be an important factor given the starting attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez. Diego Milito’s more physical presence and aerial ability could become important in the latter stages if Argentina’s dream-weavers find the playing surface disrupting their usual games. Colombia, who’ve had fits and starts in this qualifying campaign but who beat Argentina 2-1 in Bogotá back in November 2007, will be hoping for anything from the game. But they might just manage it.

A match report and highlight video will be online on HEGS tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.

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8 thoughts on “Argentina vs Colombia: a small preview

  1. it wasnt Pablo escobars own goal it was Andreas Escobars. It was Pablos Escobar sicarios who killed him.

    Its the 70th minute: Watching this Argentina dont stand a chance next summer. Heinze, Gutierrez, Gago and Veron (at this stage) on the same team will 100% not win the world cup. If Colombia had the belief they could easily get back in this.

  2. You’re right about the name of the player, Murt. Don’t know about his killer.

    One thing, though, it was Andrés, not Andreas.

    Regarding Argentina, well, there’s also another way of seeing the same situation: we managed to win even playing badly. That can’t be a bad sign.

    Of course I’m not happy or anything similar, but what mattered today was to win it and we won it.

  3. Seba I want Argentina to win next summer because without Gary Breen I just cant see Ireland winning it!! I know its a year away but the way they are playing Id be surprised if they got past the quarters. Is Lucho Gonzalez injuired and why wasnt maxi rodriguez playing??

  4. I’m glad Argentina won, and will probably be at the finals, but I thought the Argentina-Colombia was a poor game, spiteful and with little world-class football, apart from that lovely ‘Messi turn’ in the second half.

    Vargas cutting through Aguero and the two squaring up seemed to entertain the Justin TV chatters, but it didn’t entertain me. I was also disappointed Diego Milito didn’t do much either, he didn’t seem to be playing like a proper striker much of the time, wandering off out wide.
    I do find international qualifiers a bit like a trip to the dentist sometimes, lol.

    TBH, I’m not such a huge fan of international football in general, it often comes like an irritating break from the club football I watch every week. I have very little interest in the England side, in fact I loved how quiet it was out and about when England were playing against T and T in the last World Cup, I had a lovely bike ride in the summer weather while all the mugs were sitting in stuffy pubs watching that rubbish! :-)

    Maybe it’s being expected to suddenly love players I despise 50 weeks of the year playing for their club sides.
    I know an Evertonian who was hurling the most vicious abuse at the big screen when Rooney was playing for United once, then during the WC, was wearing an England top with Rooney’s name on it!?!

    I suppose not being from Argentina, watching a game like last night doesn’t fill me with much excitement either, (though I will always watch anyway to check out Messi and any ex-Racing players.)

    On the other hand, I loved watching Basile’s Copa America side, and Pekerman’s side in the last World Cup, because they played beautiful football and for once took the over-blown and over-hyped international scene to the level the media trumpet for it. But they didn’t win anything :-(

    The only way Diego can justify playing like last night is if Argentina win the World Cup, which will be great for the country. But we haven’t had a truly thrilling World Cup since 1986 (98 was quite good for drama, but apart from Argentina and some France, 06 was poor and what about 2002? It was hideous!) An awkward Argentina side in 2010 won’t be great for the game, even if it wins matches like last night. I too wish the likes of Lucho and Maxi could be there to recreate some of the magic of 2006-07.

    But maybe it’s very selfish of me to want Argentina to play beautifully. Argentinians want their team to win, and that is rightly their priority, it’s your team after all! :-)
    I admire your fans support of and identification with your team… after years of WAGs, and t***ers like Cashley Cole and Rooney in the team, I have so much England fatigue I couldn’t care less either way about my country’s side, I hardly ever watch.

    I think only Spain, Messi and possibly Holland can take 2010 to a high level. I think I’m expecting to be disappointed by the finals in SA. Too much commercialism and too much hype.

    I’m hoping to watch Talleres v Atlético Tucumán tonight. The football may not be world class, but the atmosphere and tension should be. And I’m counting the days to Racing-Boca next week. Often, I prefer the bread and butter to the supposed caviar ;-)

  5. Well done Murt, just testing (whoops!).

    As for those wanting Argentina to play better… well, they thumped Brazil in the qualifiers for the last World Cup, topped the group comfortably and then of course tore Serbia & Montenegro to shreds in the group stages (a team who’d conceded one goal in fourteen games in qualifying), but peaked too soon. The eventual champions rarely qualify comfortably, and often the teams who play the best football at the finals haven’t done so either.

    And let’s not forget the pitch either. And there’s one positive note, especially given the ‘quality’ of the defence: Mariano Andújar didn’t give any cause for concern in goal. With him and (if he gets regular playing time next season) Juampi Carrizo Argentina might actually have a choice of decent goalkeepers in South Africa…

  6. Andujar is a very good goalkeeper, in my view. Goalkeeping should be one position Argentina won’t have to worry about. Ustari and Orion could also get into the mix, if they are healthy and playing well.

  7. The thing that worried me was the system, or rather the lack of one. I don’t think Maradona really knows how he wants the team to play yet.

    The muddle in midfield is the most obvious symptom of this – nobody willing really to take charge and responsibility. From the players playing last night, Veron should really be doing that, but having him and Gago and Masche just clutters things up without adding penetration. Lucho could do the job, when fit, but really, a more creative, attacking player is needed – D’allessandro, maybe? Why has Aimar been absolutely abandoned? Montenegro isn’t good enough, from what I’ve seen.

    And speaking of not good enough – Guttierez isn’t either. He works hard, his pace is an asset, but he doesn’t seem to have any intelligence in possession. He just runs down blind alleys.

    Like Murt, I support my NT (Ireland), but I expect beautiful football from Argentina. Pekarman and Basile definitely supplied that. So far, Diego hasn’t. But Argentinians are perfectly within their rights to insist that winning is what matters…

  8. Aimar’s been abandoned because his form has collapsed disastrously at Benfica, David. And I think the idea that Maradona’s side haven’t provided any beautiful football yet isn’t quite right – the early performances (especially the friendly against France) were very promising.

    What I’d be more worried about is what seems to be a bit of an overreaction to That Afternoon In La Paz. It was an historic result for both sides, of course, one for the books – but it should have been used as a kick up the arses of the players and a warning as to what can happen if they take their eyes off the ball. It shouldn’t be seen as proof that everything Argentine football has done up to this point is null and void, and that they have to start playing like England all of a sudden. A little perspective wouldn’t go amiss.

    By the way Murt I forgot to answer your question earlier – Lucho is still out with the injury he picked up against Manchester United in the European Cup quarter-finals. Why Maxi didn’t play, I’ve no idea.

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