Colombia Coach Hernan Dario Gomez has played down his side’s chances ahead of tonight’s Copa America clash with hosts Argentina. As the second round of matches get underway, los Cafeteros top Group A and come up against an Argentinean outfit stung by their stuffy 1-1 draw with Bolivia on Friday.
The pressure is firmly on the tournament favourites who, having stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in the opening match, will be expected to improve significantly. Another draw will leave the hosts in second position at best, with one group game remaining, and a potentially trickier tie than originally anticipated in the quarter-finals. Despite admitting that there will be no ‘big changes’ ahead of tonight’s clash, Coach Sergio Batista faces an intriguing selection dilemma – whether to recall Sergio Aguero following his goal against Bolivia, or to keep faith with Carlos Tevez. A third option presents itself which would involve Aguero replacing Ezequiel Lavezzi, however this may lead to a lack of fluency in Argentina’s attack and accentuate the problems that were all too clear against the Bolivians.
Colombia too have been criticised for a lack of fluidity going forward but Gomez will be encouraged by the form of Saturday’s goal scorer Adrian Ramos. The Hertha Berlin striker latched on to a Fredy Guarin through-ball to net past the impressive Leonel Moreira. How his partnership with Falcao develops will influence how successful the Colombians are and may keep Wigan Athletic’s Hugo Rodallega confined to cameos from the bench. While Ramos and Falcao share similar qualities – both are tall centre-forwards particularly adept in the air – they do nonetheless complement one another well. Lanky and mobile, Ramos offers a contrasting threat to the heavier-set Porto hit man.
With forward lines across the continent still waiting to click into gear – in a pattern which mirrors the early stages of last summer’s World Cup – a low-scoring affair at first glance appears likely. That, however, would do a disservice to the enormous attacking potential which Argentina possess, and should they find their rhythm tonight, the Colombians will come under severe pressure. In that regard a repeat result of when these two teams last met in the Copa America in 2007 – a 4-2 win for a Juan Roman Riquelme inspired Argentina – would not come as a surprise. The only survivor from that team expected to start is Atletico Madrid defender Luis Perea, to be joined in a robust back four by Camilo Zuniga, Mario Yepes and Pablo Armero – who collectively have been the outstanding element of Gomez’s team. How well they resist the Argentinean onslaught will shed light on how capable Colombia are of competing with the big guns when we move into the business end of the Copa America next week.