Another Argentina match, another draw.
On paper, it looked like a very strong attack. Ever BANEGA in midfield to move the ball forward, Paulo DYBALA the jewel of Juventus, Angel DI MARIA the (insert your DI MARIA insult/praise here), the speedy Lautaro ACOSTA, the hitman Mauro ICARDI and of course Lionel MESSI. The opponent? Bottom of the table in the South American World Cup standings Venezuela. The venue? At home. Easy win, right? Wrong.
Argentina were huffing and puffing in the first 20 odd minutes. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Venezuela’s defence but the Vinotinto resisted the attacks and weathered the storm. Halfway into the first 45 minutes, Angel DI MARIA (not for the first time in his Argentina career) has to be substituted off in a key match for his country due to an injury. On comes the tricky Marcos ACUNA. The first half solved nothing and the second half brought more nerves.
The second half and the 1-1 draw
The second half of the match did provide goals but not what Argentina wanted. Venezuela scored the opener on a quick counter and Sergio ROMERO came way off his line as he was chipped and suddenly the last placed team in South America was bringing the Monumental to its knees. The Albiceleste kept pushing forward and finally got their deserved goal following a cross by ACUNA which first appeared to hit Mauro ICARDI and go in but was later given as a Venezuelan own goal.
With one substitution made, Jorge SAMPAOLI had two more to go. He gambled, rolled the dice and got snake eyes. Dario BENEDETTO of Boca Juniors was given his national team debut as he replaced Paulo DYBALA. The second was Javier PASTORE on for Mauro ICARDI. To say both substitutions provided next to nothing for Argentina would be a fair assessement. Lionel MESSI (who once more had a sublime match) with a great ball to BENEDETTO into the area but the Boca man was unable to control it as it went out for a goal kick. As for Javier PASTORE, a failed backheel attempt in midfield which lead to a Venezuelan counter and a shot saved following a brilliant MESSI pass is what he has to his name in this match.
The whistle blew as 1-1 was the final score in Buenos Aires and Argentina remain exactly where they were at the start of the last two rounds, in playoff position.
For full match highlights and goals, click here.