The group stages of the Copa America are almost over and if one says that they have been disappointing, it’d be an understatement. When you have some of the superstars of European club football playing in a competition, expectations are usually high. However, not only did the matches fail to live up to the expectation, but were also below-par.
Group A comprised of Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Columbia. On pen and paper, Argentina looked clear favourites to win the group. However, it was quite different on the pitch. With 2 points from as many games, their chances of qualifying to the next round looked bleak. This surely brought further ignominy to the country’s football community after the disastrous relegation of River Plate, for the first time in their glorious history of over a century. Lionel Messi, the country’s biggest football icon after legendary Diego Maradona, never quite managed to re-capture his Barcelona form, but it would be unfair on our part to put the blame of the little man for Argentina’s lackluster show. Argentina failed as a team.
Bolivia, Costa Rica and Colombia are ranked 93rd, 55th and 54th respectively. However, irrespective of the ranking, Colombia quite deservedly lead the group after all three matches. A win to start their campaign, followed by a draw against hosts Argentina and yet another victory against Costa Rica ensured that the 2001 champions earned the first spot. Hertha BSC striker Adrian Ramos has managed to hog the limelight despite the presence of a more celebrated striker in Falcao, who came into the limelight after an almost immaculate season with Porto, under the tutelage of Andre Villas-Boas.
If Ramos has been mentioned, it’d be unfair not to cite Freddy Guarin, a midfielder, who plies his trade at Porto. The two collaborated beautifully to snap up the only goal in the match against Costa Rica. A delightful through ball from Guarin was latched onto by Ramos, who rounded of the Costa Rican custodian, Leonel Moreira, who was otherwise brilliant, to slot home the only goal of the match, thereby earning his team all three points. However, credit must be given to the Costa Ricans, as they entered the tournament with an U-23 team but still managed to salvaged some pride by notching up a win against Bolivia.
The curious case of Lionel Messi was getting more convoluted and his freekick, 10 minutes from time against Colombia, didn’t help his cause either. Messi is perhaps one of the very few likeable players, who isn’t usually booed, but his jaded performance in the hallowed sky blue and white got the worse of the Estadio Estanislao López crowd. This is perhaps a very unique case of a superstar being jeered by his countrymen. In the words of Jonathan Wilson – “In that, he resembles another native of Rosario who found fame abroad and was never entirely accepted back home: Che Guevara.”
It was then that the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or showed us a glimpse of his magic in the match against Costa Rica. His two assists were as good as they get and he was the best player for the hosts in the last match of Group A. Nonetheless, Leo is still far from his Barcelona best and a win against an understrength Costa Rica can be a relief but definitely not a satisfaction. This Argentina team is bound to struggle against the flair, synchronization and approach of their European counterparts.
Top Goal Scorers
|Sergio Agüero (Argentina)||3|
|Radamel Falcao (Colombia)||2|
|Ángel di María (Argentina)||1|
|Josué Martinez (Costa Rica)||1|
|Joel Nathaniel Campbell (Costa Rica)||1|
|Adrián Ramos (Colombia)||1|
|Edivaldo Rojas (Bolivia)||1|
Goal Of The Round – Sergio Aguero Against Bolivia
Group A witnessed ten goals and it won’t be difficult to choose the best of the lot. Sergio Aguero’s fabulous finish against Bolivia in the opening match of the tournament wins it hands down. Although Edivaldo Rojas’ freakish goal comes close, however, the latter’s goal can be attributed more to Banega and Romero’s mixup than to individual brilliance. A Di Maria cross was chested down by Burdisso and a spontaneous volley by the Atletico Madrid striker stunned the Bolivian custodian – Carlos Arias.
Save(s) Of The Round – Leonel Moreira Against Colombia
Leonel Moreira’s heroics, especially against Colombia, cannot go unnoticed and his outstanding performance in that match stands out. This award is quite rightfully bagged by the youngster, who was almost impregnable.
Substitute Of The Round – Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero again! Argentina prior to the introduction of Aguero and the one, post his arrival on the pitch were two different entities altogether. Aguero entered the match against Bolivia and had an immediate impact with a match-saving goal. His arrival also saw more intent from the Albicelestes in the match against Colombia.
Flop Of The Round – Ezequiel Lavezzi
The name’s Lavezzi. Ezequiel Iván Lavezzi. Nicknamed ‘El Pocho’, the Napoli forward did not do justice to his reputation and faired miserably in the first two matches. Such was his form that Batista had to make radical changes to his team prior to the do-or-die match against Costa Rica. Apart from Lavezzi, Tevez too disappointed but the Napoli man had no clue whatsoever on the pitch. Even when he was brought as a substitute in the match against Costa Rica, he failed to find the back of the net from a delightful through ball by Leo Messi and hit the post instead. With two yellow cards, the forward will miss the next match.
Sporting Gesture Of The Round – Radamel Falcao
To be honest, there weren’t many. However, Radamel Falcao converted from the spot for the Colombians, against Bolivia and held aloft the shirt of David Ospina, who is the Colombian first choice goalkeeper. Ospina was injured after colliding with team mate Hugo Rodallega during a Copa America practice game on Tuesday. Such gestures are really heart-warming and might just bring the Colombian team together in their quest for the second Copa America title in their history.
Goal Keeper Of The Round – Leonel Moreira
A tough choice as all four keepers have performed well in patches. However, special mention must me made of Leonel Moreira, the Costa Rica U-23 custodian. He was just immense in the match against Colombia and was the prime reason why his national team did not face the ignominy of losing by a greater margin. At just 21, the goalkeeper certainly has a lot of promise. His good performance, despite inexperience, has just given him the lead over the rest.
Forward Of The Round – Sergio Aguero
When you have Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi amongst others in the mix, it gets difficult to choose the best. Falcao is perhaps the most celebrated Colombian now, thanks to his exploits in European football last season. He has had opportunities and despite not quite doing justice to his fame, did reasonably well. Lionel Messi, the superstar from Argentina, failed to stand upto the expectations. However, Sergio Aguero, with the limited chances, was more impressive. An influential cameo against Bolivia coupled with a brace against Costa Rica, in a match of paramount importance, has earned Aguero yet another title.
Midfielder Of The Round – Freddy Guarin
Freddy Guarin of Porto, bags this award. The midfielder has been quite vital for Porto last season and carried forward his good form in the Latin American tournament. His delightful through ball to Ramos in the match against Costa Rica resulted in the only goal of the match, against a resilient Leonel Moreira. Now that Colombia has progressed to the next round as Group A champions, Guarin will be the key to their midfield.
Defender Of The Round – Pablo Estifer Armero
Despite the presence of a more illustrious figure in Mario Yepes, Pablo Estifer Armero has performed well and deserves to be the Defender Of The Round. In the match against Bolivia, the fullback excelled offensively and it was his scintillating run, which was obstructed illicitly, that earned his team a penalty, thereby ensuring them the top spot in the group.
Miss Of The Round – Daryo Moreno Against Argentina
Daryo Moreno should have won it for Colombia in the match against Argentina. A terrible backpass from Milito was latched onto by Ramos, who was eventually closed down by Burdisso and Romero, but the ball was laid off for Moreno to caress it into the open net. It was Moreno’s goal to miss, and he did! You need to see it to believe it.
TheHardTackle’s Team Of The Round
Goalkeeper: Leonel Moreira (Costa Rica)
Defenders: Pablo Estifer Armero (Colombia), Mario Yepes (Colombia), Ronald Raldes (Bolivia), Luis Amaranto Perea (Colombia)
Midfielders: Daryo Moreno (Colombia), Freddy Guarin (Colombia), Fernando Gago (Argentina)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Radamel Falcao (Colombia), Sergio Aguero (Argentina)
Manager: Hernán Darío Gómez (Colombia)