Copa America 2011: Messi shines as Argentina advance over Costa Rica

From what one reads Leo Messi will never be the people’s player no matter what he does. There are too many questions when it comes to where his heart lies. But the question really should be does Argentina deserve Messi?
The best thing Checho Batista did against Costa Rica was to put that £250,000 per week mercenary Carlos Tevez on the bench. Tevez of course is the people’s player so this was a gutsy call by Batista. In his place Angel Di Maria got his start and right away the winger’s mobility and unselfish play lifted the team.
The other thing Batista got right was to promote Fernando Gago over Ever Banega and his organizational skill was key to the team’s success. Finally after two matches we had a shape and structure to the Argentinian squad. But this match was all Messi. And it is a good thing he created a half dozen chances because Gonzalo Higuain was dire. At times the Real Madrid striker resembled John Arne Riise in hoofing the ball into the stratosphere.
Not so Sergio Aguero, a grateful recipient of Messi’s lovely little through ball for his second goal. Angel Di Maria was also the beneficiary of number 10’s vision as he smashed in the third goal. All through the match Messi was given special attention by the Costa Rican defense and clearly in one instance a penalty should have been called but the referee chose to wave it off. That inexplicable bit of ignorance was nothing compared to Higuain held back in full sight of the linesman with a clear path to the goal treated as a non-event.
Argentina made their intentions amply known in the first half as they showed their impatience to get on the board quickly but their finishing let them down.Things became tense as Higuain and Aguero missed miserably with Messi’s impeccably delivered service. The breakthrough finally came at the stroke of half time after the Costa Rican defense failed to clear a cross adequately with the ball falling to Gago whose volley was initially saved by Leonel Moreira but the resulting rebound was picked up by Aguero for an easy finish.
The second half was all Argentina with Messi leading the way. By the time Ezekiel Lavezzi, Lucas Leiva, and Javier Pastore came on it was all over. Ricardo La Volpe, the Costa Rican coach very obviously played for a draw but he came across an Argentinian squad that finally played as a team. It was heartening to see them come across an energized Messi to hug him after the match. A stunning contrast from the forlorn droopy shouldered image he cut in the draw against Colombia.

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