Argentina, smarting from a
disappointing 1-1 home draw with modest Bolivia, set off for
Colombia on Sunday for their fourth match of South American
World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
They have learned a harsh lesson from a last-minute arrival
in Venezuela last month where they were upset 1-0, Argentina's
first ever defeat by the baseball-mad country 5,000 km to the
What was not in coach Alejandro Sabella's plans before the
Bolivia match on Friday was a serious rethink of his line-up and
tactics to face Colombia in Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast.
Sabella is pondering his choices in defence after Martin
Demichelis was slow to control an easy ball and striker Marcelo
Martins robbed him, turned and shot past Sergio Romero to put
He knows former captain Javier Mascherano, a tactically
disciplined player and good reader of the game, has been filling
in well as a central defender at Barcelona and may use him in
the middle of a back three.
"Mascherano is an intelligent, resourceful player who reads
the action well and despite not being tall he is competitive in
the air," Sabella said.
He also needs to continue working on his midfield formation
to bring out the best in Lionel Messi, who was marked into
submission by the packed Bolivia defence, and it does not help
being deprived of an injured Angel di Maria.
Argentina want time, even if it is only little more than a
full day, to acclimatise to 40 degree heat at the Metropolitano
stadium in Barranquilla where kick-off is at 4pm local time.
"It's very hot, humid, and it could rain. It's problematic,"
Sabella told reporters in mid-week when he confirmed he would
take his team in early.
"[Colombia] have an advantage and a disadvantage. The first
is that they don't have to travel... the second is that they'll
play in extreme heat against Venezuela."
Two home games on the trot in the marathon, nine-nation,
18-match qualifying series is a rarity and it was Colombia's
turn to benefit from the calendar this month.
But Venezuela snatched a surprise late equaliser in
Barranquilla on Friday for a 1-1 draw as Colombia's defence lost
concentration and committed an error similar to Argentina's
against Bolivia in Buenos Aires.
Venezuela substitute Frank Felstcher stole between the
centre-backs, snatching the ball off a lackadaisical Luis Perea
and steering it past stranded goalkeeper David Ospina.
Colombia coach Leonel Alvarez lost winger Fredy Guarin,
scorer of the opening goal on Friday, to a leg injury. Alvarez
was already missing striker Radamel Falcao and midfielder Carlos
Sanchez for both matches.
Uruguay, top of the standings with seven points from three
matches after they crushed Chile 4-0 in Montevideo with all four
goals scored by Luis Suarez, have a bye on Tuesday when they
meet Italy in a friendly in Rome.
Argentina and Colombia are among four teams with four
points. The others are Paraguay, who visit a Chile side nursing
their bruised pride at the Nacional in Santiago, and
Venezuela, who are at home to Bolivia at the Polideportivo in
Peru and Ecuador, who have three points apiece, meet at high
altitude in Quito, an advantage for the Ecuadoreans.
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