Copa America 2019: Argentina v Colombia Prediction
The curious case of Argentinian football’s perennial underachievement at the highest of stages is a conversation which involves theories from all corners, but is ultimately bereft of any solutions. While several justifiable fingers were pointed at Jorge Sampaoli’s bizarre tactics which led to La Albiceleste’s underwhelming 2018 World Cup, other rationales critique Argentina’s frustrating lack of cutting edge. Yet again, this is an unsolved mystery, considering the nation’s generational attacking talents such as Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and the retired Gonzalo Higuain’s history of tormenting Europe’s finest backlines throughout their careers.
However, all the arguments boil down to why the greatest player to ever play the beautiful game in Lionel Messi is unable to replicate his success at club level in the sky blue and white of Argentina? The Barcelona superstar has had to carry not only the team’s expectations on his shoulders, but also their performances, time and again.
The reality is that an overall dearth of cohesiveness in both halves of the pitch has been Argentina’s downfall when it matters.
The incessant criticism of Messi has resulted in close friend and teammate, Aguero to say, “I’m more excited about winning (the Copa America) for Leo than for myself because he has played for so long and suffered so much.”
The 2019 Copa America is a chance for La Albiceleste and Messi to turn over a new leaf. With Giovani Lo Celso making waves for Real Betis, Juan Foyth breaking into the rock-solid Spurs defence, Nicolas Tagliafico starring at left-back for a sensational Ajax side and an on-the-ropes Paulo Dybala raring to show why he’s one of the most touted young forwards on the globe, this injection of freshness makes them more of a threat than in previous competitions.
If the experienced campaigners such as the likes of Nicolas Otamendi in defence and Di Maria, Messi and Aguero in attack can lead from the front, the real Argentina will finally stand up.
Manager Lionel Scaloni would galvanize his side to start as they mean to finish in their Group B cracker against a feisty Colombia.
Perched just a position below their South American counterparts in the FIFA rankings at 12th place, Carlos Queiroz’s Colombia enter the tournament as ‘dark horses’. The emergence of Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata as Serie A’s top scorer with 23 goals, ahead of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps Los Cafeteros’ biggest headline. Combined with the experienced Radamel Falcao up front, the pair can stake a claim for being the deadliest striking partnership in the entire tournament.
In the middle of the park, James Rodriguez is the yin to William Barrios’ yang. Rodriguez was certainly not a favorite of Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich this season. However, his resurgence from just being an elite attacking midfielder into one that can also do the dirty work under the tutelage of Jupp Heynckes has polished him into a more complete presence at his best.
Barrios is a full-fledged destroyer and his average of 4 tackles and 1.2 interceptions for both Boca Juniors and now, Zenit St. Petersburg this campaign makes him the perfect foil for his more attacking partner whenever he forays forward.
Another name that will liven up the pragmatic Colombian back four is Atletico Madrid’s Santiago Arias who has shown signs of huge promise in his first campaign at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Much like Argentina, Colombia have also had burgeoning stars burst onto the scene and add a surprise element which makes them a major threat to any opposition.
However, the Argentines are a tad more of the finished article and when the two teams lock horns, Scaloni’s side will just about edge it.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Colombia