Argentina 0-0 Colombia: another goalless draw

July 7, 2011

The starting line-ups

The third 0-0 from seven Copa America games so far, as Argentina again struggled.

Sergio Batista made one change from the opening day 0-0 against Bolivia. Marcos Rojo dropped out, with Pablo Zabaleta coming in on the right. Javier Zanetti moved to the left.

Hernan Dario Gomez also made a single change, bringing in Carlos Sanchez for Gutavo Bolivar, a straight swap in midfield.

Argentina had much of the play but failed to create enough chances to get the breakthrough, a common feature of this tournament. Colombia sat back and played on the break, and deserved their point.

Tactics v Messi

Colombia’s first task, of course, was to stop Lionel Messi. Unlike in the opening game against Bolivia, where was up against two holding players, here he was up against a sole deep-lying midfielder who looked to track his movement into deep positions, and therefore had to be more intelligent with his movement, diagonally moving away from goal to collect the ball.

The Colombian centre-backs rarely followed Messi – with the exception of one occasion when Luis Perea came out and harried him in midfield – they instead focused upon sitting deep, not allowing Carles Tevez or Ezequiel Lavezzi to find space in the back four.

With Messi-minding left to Sanchez, this meant that Argentina had 4 v 3 in the midfield when Messi moved deep, a situation they didn’t take full advantage of. A slight problem with a 4-1-4-1 is that when the holding midfielder is taken away from the centre (or if he departs completely, like Pepe in the Champions League semi-final first leg) and the midfield doesn’t drop deeper, there can often be too much space between the lines. Neither Ever Banega nor Esteban Cambiasso moved into that ‘red zone’ often enough – it was (surprisingly) the latter who did find himself in space there on 30 minutes, but Argentina didn’t play the ball to him.

Argentina disjointed

Colombia’s tactics higher up the pitch worked excellently. They let Nicolas Burdisso and Gabriel Milito have time on the ball, confident that neither are technically proficient enough to provide clever passes from the back. Instead, they dropped deep into their own half and pressed as soon as the ball was played into midfield, forcing Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano to return the ball to the back. The two Colombian wide players tracked the full-back, where there was less overlapping than in the first game, with Zabaleta not a great attacker, and Zanetti on the ‘wrong’ flank (albeit somewhere where he is comfortable).

Argentina’s best chance of a goal came from the same method as in the first game – Messi moving deep, then slipping the ball for Lavezzi between Mario Yepes and Pablo Armero. Again, Lavezzi’s movement was good but his end product was poor. On the opposite flank, Tevez still looks unsuited to that wide role – having played as a false nine all season, he seems more comfortable receiving the ball with his back to goal and moving towards play – and with Messi doing broadly the same thing, Argentina’s only real method of penetration was from Lavezzi.

Colombia breaks

Colombia were threatening throughout the game on the counter-attack, particularly with the two wide players moving inside and the full-backs overlapping – both Armero and Juan Zuniga have been very impressive in the two Colombia games in the competition so far. Argentina’s defence looks incredibly prone to pace – and considering Argentina are generally on the attack, Gabriel Milito and Nicolas Burdisso are high up the pitch, leaving lots of space in behind. Their first reaction when Argentina lose the ball is to back off quickly towards their own goal, which in turn leaves Mascherano stranded and forced to cover a lot of space by himself. It’s rather surprising that Argentina haven’t conceded a goal from open play in this tournament yet.

Batista tried to change things in the second half, first with Fernando Gago and Sergio Aguero straight swaps for Cambiasso and Lavezzi, then with Gonzalo Higuain on for Banega, and more of a 4-2-1-3. Argentina didn’t really get any better, and Batista will surely be forced into changes for the final game of the group phase.

Conclusion

Another underwhelming match – the tactical interest here came from Colombia’s tactics. The way they pressed the ball coming into midfield worked well, and by not allowing their centre-backs to be dragged out of the back, Argentina rarely looked likely to break through their defence.

Argentina’s side was almost unchanged from the first game, and their problems remain the same.

Argentina 0-0 Colombia: another goalless draw

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