Argentina will finally make its Copa América debut tonight. There are alot of expectations for the team and rightly so considering the level of talent that it has brought to the tournament. Argentina’s roster is made up of it’s best players, without question, many whose current form is outstanding.
Being a favorite to win the Copa, of course, does not guarantee anything. It’ll be important for the team to get off to a good start (i.e. win) while it works to establish its game rhythm and its football.
The team is solid in every line and does have a deep bench.
There are questions going into the tournament:
1. Will Abbondanzieri recover from his injury and from his recent poor performances with the team?
2. Will Veron be able to function in his new position as right midfielder?
3. Will both Riquelme and Veron be able to successfully share playmaking duties?
4. Will Basile insist on using Riquelme if he does not perform well or will he take him out of the lineup?
5. Will Messi have his first great tournament with the Argentina shirt and validate his reputation on the international level?
6. Will Tevez have a role in the team or will he remain on the bench?
This Copa América will be a final opportunity for the veteran players to finally win something important with the national team. Crespo, Veron, Zanetti, Ayala, and Abbondanzieri. It doesn’t seem realistic to think that any of them will be with the team in the next World Cup. This Copa América is their last chance for some international glory.
How will Argentina play?
Basile will use a 4-3-1-2- formation with Riquelme as the playmaker and leader of the attack. The team will revolve around him and the pace that he sets.
Despite struggling in the recent friendlies Abbondanzieri brings experience and is coming off a great season with his club team in Spain.
The backline is strong and very experienced with only Milito coming in as the new center back. The defense’s timing and synchronization will have to emerge quickly and will be a key to the team’s success.
Veron will be important in partnering with Riquelme in the play buildup.
The team will have to make defensive adjustments every time Veron moves away from his zone on to the attack. Zanetti will have to move closer to the midfield to cover Veron’s zone and Mascherano will have to be very alert and very fast to defend the spaces that will be left open by Veron and when defending against the counter attacks. Cambiasso’s role will be to provide some defensive balance on the left side of the midfield and make the occasional pass that will initiate an attack.
Messi will have the freedom to move around and not be stationed upfront. The team will need him to drop back and join Riquelme on the attack and to make the explosive runs up the middle or diagonally from the right wing that he is known for. Alot is expected of Messi and his contributions will be crucial.
Crespo is more of an “in the box” type of forward but is capable of participating in the play buildup when necessary, his mobility will be required from time to time but he is a proven goal scorer with the Argentina shirt and that is good enough.
What about USA? Well, what can really be said about a country that is sending to an important, prestigious, international tournament a team that can be compared to a 3rd division team in Argentina (and that is being generous)
How USA football will benefit from sending such an inferior team to play a Copa América that will most likely end in 3 quick losses and an early return trip home is beyond my scope of comprehension.
ARGENTINA STARTING LINEUP
GK – Roberto Abbondanzieri
D – Javier Zanetti
D – Roberto Ayala
D – Gabriel Milito
D – Gabriel Heinze
M – Juan Sebastian Verón
M – Javier Mascherano
M – Esteban Cambiasso
M – Juan Roman Riquelme
F – Lionel Messi
F – Hernán Crespo
A great result tonight would be a win by at least 2 goals but we shouldn’t expect the team to function like a well oiled machine. The players will not be completely in sync. Afterall, the team only had one week of practices but with the talent that will be on the field it is reasonable to expect some great individual and collective plays. At the least.
Winning the first game of any tournament is huge and that is what Argentina’s needs to do tonight.
Argentina begins the quest for its 15th Copa America.