EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MARCH 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina runs away from Carlos Bocanegra #3 of the United States during the first half of a friendly match at New Meadowlands Stadium on March 26, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Another Disappointing Draw For The Hosts

Colombia and Argentina fight for Group A supremacy on Wednesday night as both Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao look to turn their club form into top form for their national teams.

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Lionel Messi's Teammates Are The Ones To Blame - Barca Blaugranes

Argentina have disappointed so far in the Copa America, and as with every underperforming team with an all-time great in their midst, their best player is taking the blame. Lionel Messi, say Argentina fans (and more than a few analysts), simply isn't performing that the sort of level that he needs to - the kind of lofty heights that he reaches with Barcelona.

At Barca Blaugranes, SB Nation's FC Barcelona blog, Jose doesn't think it's very hard to see why Messi is performing at a relatively mediocre level - it's to do with the difference in quality between his international and club teammates. The lack of playmaking ability on the Argentina roster forces Messi to play the creator role, which means that he can't do the scoring:

The expectations are for Messi to be the scorer, the hero, but for that to happen then Messi must be the striker and not the playmaker. Messi must be allowed to be carefree, to not worry about giving passes to his teammates but instead to be expecting passes from them. If Argentina would rid themselves of Messi, they would simply demonstrate their actual abysmal level of technical knowledge which is now blamed on their best player. Was any great player ever able to win anything for his nation without the help of his teammates?

The solution seems simple enough. Drop one of the three defensive midfielders Argentina insist on using, and deploy Palermo enganche Javier Pastore instead. Once a creative midfielder arrives to link up play, Messi - and the rest of the team - will thrive.


Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Hosts Disappoint With Another Draw

Just like the first match of Copa America, Argentina were expected to go in and get three points only to come away with a disappointing draw. The hosts and tournament favorites have looked anything but and now on just two points after two matches they will need to get a win in their final match of the group stage to guarantee advancement. Meanwhile, Colombia have done their job to get a draw and with four points look well on their way to first place in Group A.

While Argentina had the better of play and 17 shots to Colombia's 13, it was the Colombians who had the best chances of the match. The best opportunity came in the first half when Gabriel Milito's dreadful backpass went right to Adrian Ramos who rounded the keeper and had a clear chance at goal, but was taken out by Nicolas Burdisso. The referee did not award the penalty and red card like he could have, instead playing advantage as the ball rolled to Dayro Moreno, who shot wide of the open goal.

Colombia continued to exploit Argentina on the counter-attack and challenged Sergio Romero several times, but each time Romero was up to the challenge as he played a sensational match. He made several good saves to keep Colombia scoreless, but Argentina had their chances too. Neco Ramirez was forced to make good saves on both Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi, but Argentina will still feel as if they were poor.

As was the case in the last match, Lionel Messi was bright from the start and played the role of playmaker well. The problem, once again, was that he had no support. Lavezzi was non-existant again and Tevez worked hard, but didn't make himself available when he needed to then was selfish on the ball when he had it. Most disappointing was Esteban Cambiasso, who continued his awful run of form for Argentina begging the question, where is Javier Pastore?

As much as Argentina will lament their inability to get three points, credit has to go to Colombia who is a good team and got three points. Now sitting atop Group A on four points, they will need a win on July 10 against Bolivia to clinch first place in the group. Meanwhile, Argentina needs to defeat Costa Rica a day later or face the prospect of not even qualifying for the knockout stages.


Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Another Scoreless First Half At Copa America

No goals and lots of draws has been the theme early on in Copa America and the Group A match between Argentina and Colombia is no different. Both teams had a few chances, but it wasn't a spectacularly played half by any means and the two teams head to halftime stuck in a scoreless tie. Argentina are the hosts and favorites, but have not looked the part and before long the fans will turn on them for their continued average play.

The best chance of the match came for Colombia and it was amazing that they didn't score on the play. Having beaten the keeper, the Adrian Ramos looked to be alone in on goal, but he was taken out by a Argentinean defender. The referee could have given the penalty, but instead played advantage because the ball was right at the feet of Dayro Moreno. With the entire goal to shoot at, Moreno shot wide and instead of a penalty and possible red card, Colombia has nothing.

Besides that chance, Colombia was really only able to generate chances from distance. Radamel Falcao tested Sergio Romero once from 25 yards and Moreno did the same, but they couldn't score. Nexo Martinez was tested too, but he made key saves on Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi to keep Argentina off the scoreboard.

Neither team has looked exceptional and while Lionel Messi continues to try and be Argentina's playmaker, there isn't enough movement around him to accomplish much. Colombia is trying their hardest to get Falcao touches, but Argentina is double-marking him at all times. This one could very well finish as sloppy and ugly as it started with yet another draw in Copa America.


Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Lineups

Two teams who failed to impress in their Copa America openers are ready to square off in Santa Fe, Argentina. The hosts, Argentina, needed a late wonderstrike by Sergio Aguero to draw with lowly Bolivia in their first match of the tournament, while Colombia spend more than an hour up a man, yet still could only beat Costa Rica's under-22 team, 1-0. The Colombians do lead Group C and will clinch a place in the knockout stages with a win, while Argentina need to win their next two matches to win the group.

Pablo Zabaleta is the only change for Argentina as he comes into the team for Marcos Rojo, while Javier Zanetti will move to the left of the defense. Colombia also makes just one change with Carlos Sanchez starting in the midfield to give them a little more bite as they try to deal with Lionel Messi.

Argentina (4-3-3): Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel MIlito, Javier Zanetti; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso; Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez

Colombia (4-1-4-1): Neco Martinez; Camilo Zuniga,  Luis Amaranto Perea, Mario Yepes, Pablo Armero; Carlos Sanchez; Abel Aguilar, Fredy Guarin, Dayro Moreno, Adrian Ramos; Radamel Falcao


Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Lionel Messi Looking For Help

Lionel Messi gets plenty of criticism for his play with Argentina. The world's best player who is simply mesmerizing against the world's best teams for Barcelona has yet to replicate that type of play for Argentina and it hasn't gone unnoticed. It is one of the most common debates in world football. Why can't Messi play like Messi for Argentina? A draw against Bolivia in the opening match of the tournament didn't helo Messi's case either as people were quick to play the failures of Argentina's attack on Messi.

Those who looked at Messi for Argentina's failures against Bolivia were taking the easy way out. Argentina drew at home against a team that had no business playing with them and they only got the point because of a sensational strike by Sergio Aguero. Where's Messi, the supposed best player in the world, in that match? Why couldn't he carry the attack? That type of questioning ignored the fact that Messi actually did play pretty well against Bolivia.

While Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi would either disappear from the match or shoot any time they could see the goal, Messi looked to be the team's playmaker. He dropped to see the ball, made effective runs and was able to open up the match for Argentina. It wasn't his fault that Tevez and Lavezzi weren't at their best and couldn't get into dangerous positions. It wasn't his fault that the midfield struggled to create much so Messi had to move away from the goal to get the ball. It wasn't his fault that too often Messi was out on an island without any support from his teammates.

The last point is the biggest issue for Argentina and unfortunately for them, a longstanding one. For years now Messi has been able to get touches on the ball for Argentina, but he hasn't had available options to link up. Some of that was chalked up to former manager Diego Maradona and his tactical naivety, but with Sergio Batista in charge of the team now it is no better.

Ever Banega played well in the midfield against Bolivia and gave Messi one option, but he was just about the only option. Messi played relatively well in that match and there's no reason to believe that he won't do the same for the rest of the tournament, but if he is to live up to the world's best player moniker, he is going to need some help. He is going to need options. Maybe that means bringing Javier Pastore into the team or maybe the rest of the Argentina team will just have to step forward. However it happens, it will have to happen for Messi to truly shine and for Argentina to win.


Copa America 2011, Argentina Vs. Colombia: Can Lionel Messi, Radamel Falcao Find Form?

On July 1, Argentina drew Bolivia in the opening match of the 2011 Copa America. It was probably the most shocking result in South American football since...Bolivia beat Argentina 6-1 in La Paz. Okay, so maybe Bolivia just has Argentina's number? Regardless, they face a team on Wednesday that should be a much tougher test on paper. Colombia is loaded with talent, even if they haven't been able to turn that talent into success on the international stage. 

All eyes will be on two players in this game, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Colombia's Radamel Falcao. The two were two of the best players in Europe this past club season, with Messi having what was probably the best season of any player in the world. Neither have been able to duplicate their club form on the international stage to date, with Messi's international failures being much more scrutinized.

Everyone and their mother has an opinion on why Messi is not as good for Argentina as he is for Barcelona. Some point to tactics, some point to teammates, and some go as far to question his heart and desire to play for his national team. Whatever it is, Lionel Messi does not produce for Argentina like he does for Barcelona, and it's something that needs to be corrected for Argentina to contend for Copa America and World Cup titles. 

Following his team's draw against Bolivia, it wouldn't be surprising to see Argentina manager Sergio Romero make some serious changes. Many are calling for Sergio Aguero, who scored Argentina's equalizer, to replace Carlos Tevez, while many are also clamoring to see Javier Pastore, Palermo's playmaker who is subject to transfer rumors linking him to all of Europe's biggest clubs.

While the Argentinian fans and press debate about whether Pastore or Ever Banega should be the team's main midfield playmaker, there is no such debate on the Colombian side, as Falcao's FC Porto teammate Fredy Guarin is the man Colombia has pulling the strings. His stunning through ball from deep in midfield set up Colombia's winner against Costa Rica, and his team will need him to come up huge on Wednesday night if they want to defeat Argentina.

The Albiceleste are struggling to find chemistry and find their form, but there's no question that their talent makes them the favorites in almost any match they play, including this one. The likes of Falcao and Guarin give Colombia the firepower to score goals, but things are not yet dire enough for Argentina that they should be bet against on their home soil in Copa America.

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