Argentina draw with Colombia in Copa America

Colombia lead group A as Argentina need victory over Costa Rica to qualify for second round.

     Argentina have not lived up to expectations in the tournament despite being the hosts [AFP]

    Argentina's passage to the knock-out stage of the Copa America is in jeopardy after the hosts were held to a 0-0 draw by Colombia, in another disappointing performance by Lionel Messi and his big-name teammates.

    The match on Wednesday was similar to Argentina's 1-1 draw in its opening game against Bolivia, with coach Sergio Batista sticking with nearly the same starters, led by a misfiring Messi and Carlos Tevez.

    Argentina's two star forwards were outplayed by Colombia strikers Radamel Falcao and Dayro Moreno, who had more chances and perhaps should have given their team victory.

    "We deserved three points," Colombia defender Mario Alberto Yepes said. "We had the chances to win. We had a lot of attacks we didn't finish."

    Argentina will need a victory in the final group match against Costa Rica, which is fielding largely an under-23 team, to guarantee passage to the second round.

    Even beating a second-string Costa Rica may be tough for Argentina, which has scored one goal in 180 minutes.

    Olympic-style squad

    Costa Rica and Mexico are using inexperienced Olympic-style squads in this tournament because they are not part of the South American confederation and are playing as guests.

    Their full-strength teams played in the just-completed Gold Cup for the CONCACAF region, which takes in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

    The Argentina players left the pitch to boos and whistles from frustrated fans.

    "One does not like to go off that way," Batista said. "People come to see the team win, and that's what we all want."

    Batista acknowledged that Colombia defended well against Messi. "They shut down the open spots, they knew how to play. They knew our game," he said.

    The national coach will be under pressure to engineer a result for the hosts, who were tipped by many to win the tournament and face Brazil in the final.

    Batista took over from Diego Maradona after a disappointing World Cup but has failed to produce results for a nation starved for any major titles in 18 years.

    Argentina has two points from two games in Group A. Colombia leads the group with four from two games.

    Bolivia (one point from one game) and Costa Rica (zero points from one game) will play on Thursday.

    The top two teams in the group advance automatically to the quarterfinals while the best two third-place teams from the three groups also advance.

    Search for goal

    Colombia outplayed Argentina in the first half with Falcao and Moreno each coming up with several threatening chances. Moreno came close after 20 minutes with two shots sailing just side.

    Argentina again failed to get Messi into the match, although Ezequiel Lavezzi came close to scoring in the 34th, charging in off the right side with a shot that goalkeeper Luis Martinez saved with his right leg.

    Falcao forced Argentine keeper Sergio Romero into a diving save in the 42nd on a long shot. Moreno made Romero dive again two minutes later with another threatening attack.

    The second half was much the same, and again Colombia looked more dangerous.

    Pablo Armero came close on a shot just across the face of goal in the 65th. Two minutes later Romero came up with a big save on Falcao.

    Argentina finished with four forwards: Messi, Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, on the pitch in a desperate search for a goal, but still failed to create any genuine chances.

    Messi had a good opportunity with a free kick from the top right corner of the penalty area in the 81st, but his attempt sailed 10m high and wide, and the Barcelona star dropping his head onto his chest in disappointment.

    He also fell to the ground in first-half stoppage time, twisting his right ankle when his boot caught in the pitch.
    Messi has yet to produce his Barcelona form with Argentina, and each failed match adds more pressure on the 24-year-old, who left Argentina as a youth player and has spent his formative years in Spain.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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