Few dispute that Argentina’s current generation is one of the most talented in the country’s history. Lionel Messi is incessantly compared to football’s greatest all-time players, while he has formidable performers such as Javier Mascherano, Javier Pastore, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero for company in the sky blue and white stripes.
Yet, despite such class, they suffered an emphatic 4-0 loss to Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, before an embarrassing campaign at a Copa America they hosted earlier this year.
Argentina simply had to put it right in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and Alejandro Sabella’s troops certainly hit the ground running, beating a Chile side shorn of star man Alexis Sanchez 4-1 in Buenos Aires. However, a 1-0 loss in Venezuela – their maiden defeat by the minnows – returned La Albiceleste under pressure.
The apparent formality of victory at home to Bolivia last night would have relieved some of that pressure, but a Verde side that stunned the two-time world champions with a 1-1 draw in the Copa America curtain-raiser in July repeated the trick, with Marcelo Moreno’s superb goal being cancelled out by Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Argentina fans made their feelings known, showering their players with boos, which Messi admits hurt.
“What we want most is to play well and win, especially at home. Out of the blue, Bolivia scored and things became complicated. It’s always difficult when you fall behind. We had chances to score more than one goal, but we were unlucky.
“The World Cup, the Copa America and now this. It is difficult. Not winning makes me angry. There have been many disappointments and I do not know if we can ask [the fans] for patience.”
Uruguay are top of South American Zone qualifying for Brazil 2014 on seven points from three rounds, with Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Venezuela on four and Ecuador, Peru and Chile on three (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have a game in hand on the others). And given how tight things are, Messi has stressed that La Albiceleste simply have to win in Baranquilla on Tuesday evening.
“The draw against Bolivia makes everything harder – it will be difficult to prepare for the game against Colombia over the next few days. But the players are the first ones who want to make things right.
“Another match is coming up quickly. We know it will be very hard, just like every match away from home. But this time we cannot fail. We simply have to win after what happened against Bolivia."