CORDOBA - Lionel Messi's
Argentina put their Copa America fortunes on the line on Monday
against a Costa Rica side assembled at the
The hosts, boasting half a dozen of the world's top forwards
and the pre-tournament favourites, have struggled and have found
the net only once in two draws against Bolivia and Colombia.
The Costa Ricans, with a young side under wily Argentine
coach Ricardo La Volpe, shocked Bolivia 2-0 in Jujuy on Thursday
to take second place in Group A behind Colombia and above
Messi, his team-mates and coach Sergio Batista have come
under fire from media and fans with former captain and 2010
World Cup coach Diego Maradona stepping in to demand more
support for Argentina.
"We Argentines can't behave like this with the best [player]
in the world," Maradona said, criticising reports attacking
An emotional Maradona, whose mother is in hospital, also
told the sports daily Ole in an exclusive interview published on
Sunday, that he would have struggled playing
with three holding midfielders.
Batista plays Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Esteban
Cambiasso in the middle of a 4-3-3 formation. Sergio Aguero, as
a substitute against Bolivia, has scored their only goal of the
tournament so far.
"[Javier] Pastore would be a good associate for Lio," said
Maradona referring to the Palermo playmaker who shone this
season in Serie A and to a lack of creativity in Batista's
midfield. Pastore has yet to make even a substitute's appearance
in the tournament.
Costa Rica, with a mainly under-23 team and only half the
squad that reached the quarter-finals of last month's Concacaf
Gold Cup in the United States, could upset the apple cart if
Argentina do not improve.
La Volpe, whose side were invited to the tournament at the
last minute after Japan pulled out, said their preparations
included a psychological aspect.
"I'm focusing on how to counter a strong team who want to
show the Argentine people they have a good national side.
There's no doubt they'll come with everything so we have to be
very concentrated," he told reporters.
"If we play against the big names and the [Argentina] shirt
we're not going to do great things. We must liberate ourselves,
the lads must forget those things so they can play a match they
see as easy to win, going out [to play] with that mentality."
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