A worried Checho Batista faced with a must win against Costa Rica
Watching Leo Messi, a shadow of himself struggle against Colombia throws into sharp relief the magnificent Barca midfield that makes goalscoring look so easy. The Albiceleste should on first look fare just as well with their squad teaming with the creative talent the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Ever Banega, Javier Pastore, Fernando Gago, Esteban Cambiasso, and Angel Di Maria.
They, however could not find their way through a dogged Colombian defense led by veteran Mario Yepes. There was no one in midfield to take on the responsibility of orchestrating the attack. In the initial stages of the 2010 World Cup, a cautious Maradona looked to Juan Sebastian Veron to provide the linkage between midfield and the upper third and it worked admirably till the devil got to Maradona and he jettisoned Veron to the disastrous result against Germany.
Against Colombia, Batista employed Javier Mascherano and Esteban Cambiasso as holding midfielders with Ever Banega as the creative nexus but the disjointed and frantic performance at times saw Cambiasso out in front of Messi with Tevez stuck out in the left where he was ineffective.
Passes went helter skelter as players played out of position and the Colombians found it easy to garner the ball. In the last Copa, the Albiceleste were buoyed by Juan Roman Riquelme and Veron until the finals against Brazil where they were spanked when Riquelme did one of his disappearing acts. Batista went to his bench bringing in Aguero, Gago, and Higuain but it made no difference.
At the other end the few times the Colombians did mount an attack they looked very threatening with the speedy Adrian Ramos, Radamel Falcao, and Fredy Guarin testing Sergio Romero a number of times but the AZ Alkmaar goalie proved equal to the task preventing a shock victory. He was the man of the match.
It’s not just Argentina but other big names like Brazil and Uruguay who have struggled against swarming defenses disrupting the attacking flow. The results so far have been a series of disappointing draws with many of them scoreless. So far only Chile have played to expectation but that too was against a completely new look Mexican team.