Captain Messi Scores In Argentina Triumph
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi enjoyed a commanding debut as Argentina skipper as his country opened their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-1 win over Chile. Messi scored once yesterday while Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain hit a hat-trick to give new coach Alejandro Sabella a triumphant start in his first competitive match in charge.
Argentina’s Spanish club influence was completed by Angel Di Maria setting up two of the goals for his Real Madrid teammate Higuain. “It was important to get off on the right foot and we did just that,” said Higuain. I liked a lot of what we did tonight. Now we have to keep this up.”
The 1978 and 1986 world champions, rebuilding after a poor Copa America which saw them exit in the quarter-final, were ahead after eight minutes at Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental where they haven’t lost a World Cup game for 18 years. Di Maria slipped in a pass to Higuain who drove the ball high into the net past Claudio Bravo in the Chile goal. Messi then scored his 18th international goal in his 63rd appearance in the 26th minute when he was released by a fine pass from Higuain before beating Bravo with a low shot from the edge of the box.
Chile, who were without key players Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel through injury, came close to cutting the deficit in the 42nd minute when Humberto Suazo was unfortunate to see his effort deflected wide by the foot of Pablo Zabaleta. Di Maria set-up the third for Argentina in the 51st minute when he found Higuain with a smart cross which his Real Madrid teammate converted with a shot on the turn. Nine minutes later Matias Fernandez pulled one back for Chile before Messi teed-up Higuain for a his hat-trick in the 63rd minute after a poor Bravo clearance.
Messi Set To Be Handed Argentina Captaincy
New Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella reportedly wants to elect Lionel Messi as his new captain, after meeting the Barcelona phenomenon on Friday to discuss national team affairs.
According to Ole, the 55-year-old was delighted by the forward’s attitude and approach during their meeting. It has convinced the tactician that his prized asset must be at the forefront of his vision whilst at the helm. Messi is said to have displayed maturity, commitment and character to Sabella, which has given the coach food for thought as he is now considering giving him the armband currently belonging to Barcelona team mate Javier Mascherano.
It would not be the first time that the forward would assume the captaincy. Former Seleccion coach Diego Maradona handed him the role against Greece during last year’s World Cup in South Africa. The meeting in Catalunya reportedly turned into dinner between the pair, at which Mascherano was also present. Issues that were brought to the table included the team’s underachievement at this year’s Copa America and Sabella’s ideas for the national team.
The new coach had been in Lisbon earlier in the week, where he had met with other players under consideration for his first Argentina squad. This included Benfica trio Nicolas Gaitan, Ezequiel Garay and Enzo Perez as well as Fabio Rinaudo of Sporting Lisbon. Following his Barcelona trip, Sabella now finds himself in Madrid, where he will meet with Angel Di Maria, Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain and witness the first leg of Supercopa between Real Madrid and Barcelona on August 14.
Messi Confident of Progression
Argentina have made a poor start to their Copa America campaign with two draws and do not look like a team ready to end a two-decade trophy drought, but they will recover and reach the quarter-finals, insists star Lionel Messi. Messi is caught in the headlights as the debate rages nationwide about why he cannot seemingly turn on the style in the country of his birth. But he insists everything will come together. “I feel fine and I am really up for it. I am confident the team will qualify. We’ll pull it out,” the 24-year-old told sports daily Ole.
Former Argentina coach Alfio Basile, who masterminded the side’s run to the 1993 title, told Radio Concepto on Saturday that “if we don’t go through it will be a disaster. “But we should win it,” he added, calling on coach Sergio Batista to make changes if he felt deep down that he must. “I’m thinking about changing the system,” Batista had revealed in his Clarin column on Friday, hinting that Messi would play just off Gonzalo Higuain, with Sergio Aguero and Angelo di Maria also brought in, meaning Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi may drop to the bench. Basile said Messi needs the ball. “I know him,” he said. “If he doesn’t have the ball he goes crazy and drifts out of the game.”
Maradona says the critics have got it all wrong. “I want to defend Messi. He always plays, he loves the Argentine shirt – I can’t believe all these idiots who take to the airwaves to do him down. I talked with him this week and told him to take things calmly. “Let’s not blame Leo. We have the best in the world, an exceptional boy.”
Messi for Argentina: An Analysis
Lionel Messi has become an even more isolated player for Argentina at the Copa America than he was at the 2010 World Cup, a forlorn figure missing the telling passes of his club mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Reuters gives the following assesment:
Messi, mesmerising for Barcelona, has had limited influence in the hosts’ first two matches in Group A, a 1-1 draw with Bolivia and Wednesday’s 0-0 stalemate with Colombia. Coach Sergio Batista preaches a game that is centred around Messi but it is not working in a competitive context in the way it appeared to flourish in friendlies. Argentina have been thwarted by two well organised sides with Colombia’s Hernan Dario Gomez showing the extent of his nous as a coach in his near-flawless tactics against Batista’s.
Had Colombia’s attack put away one of several chances, the game plan would have been perfect but they were profligate while Argentina’s Sergio Romero had a man-of-the-match game in goal. The best thing Messi did in the 90 minutes against Colombia was the brilliant through-ball to Ezequiel Lavezzi in the first half that the winger should have buried in the Colombia net. That is not, however, the role Batista really has for Messi. He wants to see Messi receiving such passes and putting away the goals himself.
It will hardly ever happen while Batista plays three natural central midfielders in Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Esteban Cambiasso and no true link-man like Juan Roman Riquelme. Riquelme and Messi combined to inspire Argentina to Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, the one international title Batista has won as a coach. There is a classic playmaker in Argentina’s Copa America squad, Javier Pastore, but Batista seems reluctant to use him even as a substitute.
“I remain confident in these players, I have the players (but) the functioning (of the team) is costing us a bit,” Batista told the post-match news conference. “One tries to give them a footballing idea, but in these two matches we haven’t seen it.” Batista said he would stick to his guns, adding: “We’re going to continue to try playing good football, we’re not going to try to win any old how.”
Whatever Batista and his troops practise behind closed doors is not appearing on the pitch — which they left to boos and whistles from Argentina fans.