An article from a friend of mine, Andre Sooklal (who hails from Trinidad & Tobago) a blogger of Extra Time TV and also currently a OPTA Correspondent at the Copa America (yep, he’s living the dream!). Do have a read on this.

Argentina definitely have had their share of problems leading up to the Copa Centenario: The threat to boycott the tournament, Messi’s court case, an injury riddled squad with very notable omissions just to name a few.  To add to all this Argentina had the task of starting the first game against a very tough Chile team which robbed them of the international glory that they so desperately seek. It seems they had all the excuses and then some to not give a top notch display.  Questions were asked of Argentina and they responded emphatically.

Without Messi the Albiceleste came away victors against a very strong Chile with a 2-1 victory with goals from Di Maria and Banega and, despite the close score line, Argentina were very much deserved winners. The result made two very clear statements: firstly, this Argentina team is not just Messi plus ten other guys but a team that is very formidable without their star man and, secondly, defeating the current champions in the first game was definitely letting everyone know that this team means business.  With Aguero and Messi on the bench for the first game, Argentina still managed a top display against a top Chile team.  Argentina went on to break down a stubborn Panama team who were eventually obliterated by Messi who masterfully executed a hatrick that must have given the Panamanians nightmares after the match.  To Top things off Argentina, with qualification assured, flexed their muscles by switching up the line-up with Rojo, Mercado, Mascherano, Gaitan and Di Maria (injured) and executed a masterclass in football. Argentina, simply put, outclassed their opponents who obviously set up to defend and neutralize but only succeeded in getting out played; All this with no Messi! Messi would eventually make his way onto the field in the second half and definitely made it his business to entertain the crowd. The game ended 3-0 and Argentina secured their semi-final spot against Venezuela.

It must be mentioned that Martino’s use of the 4-3-3 formation looked way more tactically flexible than it did in the last Copa America. The back four look solid, the center back pairing of Manchester City’s Otamendi and Everton’s Funes Mori look the part.  The wingback area, which was a concern before the tournament was equally impressive with Rojo and Gabriel Mercado looking solid both defensively and offensively.  Banega has finally come into his own after years of not really showing his true potential. His ability to not just create but connect the defence and forward line is very impressive. He seems to have finally adjusted the physical side of his game necessary to make him a true midfield leader. Mascherano has been at his monstrous best and newcomers Augusto Fernandez and Kranvitter have slipped into Tata’s system perfectly. With the absence of Messi, Angel Di Maria, Higuain and Augero have looked very sharp but Nicholas Gaitan when called upon to fill the shoes of Messi did his part perfectly. He did not try to be Messi but did what he is good at, which is beating players on the wing and creating opportunities. Romero, outside that moment of madness against Chile, always looks like a man possessed when playing for his national team.  One can sit and talk about the individual qualities of the entire squad all day but the characteristic that really makes Argentina stand out is their ability to regain possession with such speed and efficiency. To sustain such pressure for ninety minutes is always difficult but the team pulled it off. The team when not in possession of the ball is fantastic to watch.  What really epitomizes the dominance is the mind-blowing 82 percent possession in the Bolivia game, and not just possession for possession sake but actual penetration and purpose to the play.

One possible area of concern is the overall fitness of the team with the likes of Di Maria, Messi, Biglia, Mercado and Pastore picking up injuries. The true depth of the team will be tested in the knock out stages. So far, despite all these concerns, Argentina showed that the players who stepped in were certainly more than capable in the group stage. However, in the knock-out stages a fully fit squad would be something that Martino would love to have. Many argued before the tournament started that Martino should have dropped the injured players for players who were in better condition. So far the gamble has paid off for Martino but only time will tell if he was justified or not.

Another area that maybe has to be taken into consideration, due to the high intensity style of play adopted by Martino who is a student of the methodologies of none other than Marcelo Bielsa, is the ability to sustain that style throughout the tournament.  The players have all come off from long seasons so Martino will definitely have to ensure he makes the correct decisions to avoid further injuries and burnouts.  In the past Argentina have stormed to three Copa America finals in recent years only to run out of gas in the finals. This is something Martino will definitely be looking to avoid this time around.

Of course it would be wildly premature to say Argentina are surely going win the trophy due to the nature of football and Argentina’s history in recent times but they are certainly looking the part.

With performances like this it is easy to see how the pre-tournament concerns about certain players not being in the squad have been swept aside for now.  Argentina’s next opponent is Venezuela and if Tata can manage to have a fully fit squad it is not unreasonable to see Argentina, being cautiously optimistic, going all the way this time around.


  1. Can’t believe i am still reading some crying and moaning! We had best group stage results in decade i think(if i am not wrong). Yes it doesn’t mean we have won something yet but we did play group stage better than last few tournament. Don’t come and start argument please that it was weak team and blah blah. SAY 1 first than start saying 2. So i am happy my team played a outstanding group stage games without the best player of history ever will see. Yes we definitely needs to improve but after reading those comments i have two words to say…
    I think we have some Brazilian fan here to start nonsense debate by criticising a team played their heart out and absolutely beauty.

    Bytheway nice post Roy.

  2. SImeone want Ascacibar. Real Sociedad and Napoli as well.

    PSG with LO Celso

    Mainz with 4 mln offer for Emiliaano Rigoni of Independiente

    Flamengo with offer for Cuesta.

    So my fav club Independiente doing well.
    Cuesta is another player of Independiente (after Mancuello) who scored for NT in his debut. The next must be Tagliafico;)

    • Gonzalo…Independiante was one of the teams that I watched regularly thanks to tagliafico, Rigoni and Cuesta and honestly I think that the tagliafico-cuesta pair isn’t going to the olympics because I think they would be unbeatable on the left side.
      Rigoni has been a revelation (also playing on the leftside) and his versatility (plays LM, LW and LF) would come in handy in the olympics. The only side of his game that he needs to work on is his defensive work, which isn’t bad but needs to do more.

      Celso going to PSG is awful IMO because he’s going to be warming the bench and I would rather have him go to a lesser team where he could get more playing time and show his real potential.

      Ascacibar is a beast but he’s still too young to go to europe, I hope he can stay for atleast one more year because we all saw what happened with zuculini after mancity bought him and now kranevitter is struggling for playing time also.

      • Mamoun,

        that’s all true what you are writing. About Tagliafico and Cuesta, about Rigoni, Lo Celso and Ascacibar.

        Thankfully Ascacibar will play in Argentina to 2017 for sure. That is his club decision and no matter how good offers the club will get.

        Yes, Lo Celso will be bench warmer no doubt. Even Pastore position in this club isn’t good at the moment.

        • It’s funny: few months ago Independiente rejected 12 mln offer of Real Madrid for Martin Benitez. Then he lost his form… In the end of season it was better with him but I’m sure Independiente would take that 12 mln today for sure;)

          • And Ivan Rossi fromm long list of Martino for Olimpics probably will be Independiente player next season. A friend of Tagliafico.

  3. The ability to regain possession is what has really impressed me this tournament. A team is not really a threat unless they have possession of the ball first. It seems we are constantly trying to double team any opponent when they have possession of the ball, which is great! Combined with precision passing and pace control it has been a real joy to watch Argentina play the way they have been playing. I would still like to see better 1-2 linking with Messi up top when teams start parking the bus in the box. Hopefully Martino has some drills in place for that 😉

  4. During Panama 2nd half and Bolivia match,Martino used 4-4-1-1 formation,with Messi just behind no 9.Not only formation,there has been change in build up play and over all game approach which significantly differs from Chile match.I don’t know why many praise the chile game,we could not complete 3 passes together before loosing the ball with attacking players remaining isolated,more or less.

    Now when we attack,players position themselves horizontally,which makes passing easy and then they apply pressure to the middle which makes room for wing players.Banega is key to all of this,who keeps ball moving with excellent passing.He is far better as a Deep lying playmaker than no 10 for Argentina.I hope Martino keeps the current set up.Messi 10x more dangerous as CF than as RMF.I would like Di Maria and Lamela to cover flanks,Messi just behind Higuain in 2 man attack,Banega and Masche as the CMF pair.

  5. Not only Argentina, they’re in the completely different class at the moment but the entire Copa America is making the European Boring Championship looks mediocre.

  6. The real COPA starts now. We’re looking good for the QFs. The article is good positive writing however it is bit exaggerated though. It praises Argentina as potential champions. What the author failed to mention is the pressure on the team to deliver. Nothing else than victory is acceptable this yet. Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador are dangerous opponents. These teams will test the real characters of our team in KO matches, which so far has been lacking.
    We are not the best team in the world because we beat some minnows.
    Look at Belgium, the second ranked team and so hyped by the pundits due to their team roster but we saw how they were humbled by the supposedly inferior, but more tactical savvy Italians.
    Argentina has been a victim of being “out-coaching” too many a times in recent years. Our current coach is poor reader of the game and hardly makes tactical changes during games.
    Media can hype us up with good writes but we have to wins the games on the pitch of play. Let’s win on the pitch. Vamos

  7. 2004 we looked the part
    2006 we looked the part
    2007 2011 2014 2015
    All the same
    Good team but lack psychological power when it matters
    Same thing again. Get to final and choke without scoring and same all stuff . “Tata out” “Higuain out”
    Same attacking platers since 2010 = same problem

  8. The team looks fresh, certainly fresher than last copa. But there are some obvious problems as well, like the fullbacks. Mercado is obviously better than rojo as an attacking outlet, but still he is not world class which in the next 2 games will surely be tested. Rojo is just miserable in attack and his side of wing could have problems in terms of attacking outlet in the absence of Di Maria. Also, I don’t think anybody will be playing the pressing-attacking game against us bar Colombia or Chile. So we must be prepared to break buses, because not every team is Bolivia and Panama!

    Another area of concern is the lack of goals by out actual forwards. I do not trust Aguero. His link up play with Messi is non-existent and he is fragile as glass! Higuain on the other hand looks the same miserable off form out of confidence guy during the last copa. Not everyday our defenders are going to open the floodgate! Someday our actual so called world class strikers will have to score!

    What I am happy about the team is Banega’s stability and ball playing. After Gago we haven’t had anyone who is able to link the midfield with the forwards. Thank god he found his mojo. With his resurgence, now I think a proper 4-3-3 is not a bad idea after all!

    • Your essay made no sense whatsoever. What games have you been watching? Rojo has the best assist in the tourney thus far, and make that two assist. I can’t even comment anymore because I cringe from reading your comment, pure gibberish, that’s all I can say. What’s wrong with you people? Is it hard to say the team is playing well? Look at those robotic and mechanical European Championship style football. Argentina is by far the best national team in world football. Cut out the non sense and start appreciating the players. Sick of reading some of these comments, what a great article posted by Roy friend but you have to come on here to be the first to tarnish such a beautiful article.

      • Look kid. I know you from a long time and that’s only why I am not going to say anything bad to you. Let me answer your debates –

        “What games have you been watching? Rojo has the best assist in the tourney thus far, and make that two assist” – Do you watch the games? Or just the stats?

        “Argentina is by far the best national team in world football” – No we are certainly not the best national team in the world. PERIOD. Not even close. We have a long way to go.

        Where did you see that I criticized? can’t we have a discussion? Or we always have to pretend everything is good and we are the best!! What’s the point of staying here in a forum if we can’t have a discussion?

        • I am curious, which national teams do you think are currently better than Argentina? I don’t think there are any in the Americas. So you must be thinking of European sides. So who? Italy? Germany? France? Spain? None are playing that great in the Euro right now.

          I really feel that Argentina are the best at this exact moment. Maybe some teams can up their game, but Argentina right now is the best.

          • Germany. Not because they won the world cup and are favorites for the Euro. But because the stability they have.

            – They have not changed their manager for a long time.
            – They have a very well organized system in their team
            – They have experienced world class players as well as youngsters. Not just youngsters from the womb, but youngsters who have been performing for their respective club-sides in tough leagues
            – They always plays as a team and no individual player is bigger than the team.

        • I don’t know why you are talkling about which team is the best on the world now. We don’t know. We have not World Cup in this year to judge the things. We have Copa America and Euro so stop to compare what is not incomparable.

          The article is idealization. The reality is still far from what is writing about. “Higuain and Augero have looked very sharp” – oh really? How long Higuain is going to not score still? “Nicholas Gaitan when called upon to fill the shoes of Messi did his part perfectly”. Gaitan was better IMO than Lamela but still not perfect for sure…

          According to an article everything is perfect. No, it’s not true. I have to Martino credit of confidence but stronger rivals in next round will show us that not everything is perfect.

        • Tell me which team in the Americas that is currently better than Argentina? Better yet, tell me which team in the European championship that is playing better than Argentina? You say we are not the best team yet you can’t tell us who in this Copa America is better than Argentina. You’re trying to be a critique while failing miserable at it. You have no positive input,so your argument is irrelevant as far as I’m concern. You’re a keyboard coach and nothing more, you know nothing what these players go through or sacrifice. Argentina is the NUMBER ONE team on the FIFA rankings and they’re playing like it.

          • It’s better to say after winning something…. Good show in group games doesn’t make us the best team… Real challenge will be in the knockouts…. where more pressure & better teams will be encountered…. Under Sabella when we are winning against all teams in Friendlies, we thought the same….

    • Have to agree on Rojo. He has the occasional on target cross, but that’s about it. Never see him try to dribble past anyone when he’s coming up the flank. Simply passes back or crosses. But he is fit and tracks back to defend like a winger should but I don’t expect can kind of attack from him. And Mercado? I mean a little better but not by much.

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