A magnificent first-half performance from Lionel Messi was all that Argentina needed to beat Colombia with ease on Tuesday night, coasting to a 3-0 win. A magnificent free kick goal and pair of assists from Messi were the headlines of a fantastic performance from the megastar, and Colombia could find no way to respond despite the importance of the match for World Cup qualifying.
The match started a bit slowly, with Colombia trying to defend first while Argentina weren’t pressing too hard getting forward in attack. A foul on Messi after roasting several Colombian defenders gave Argentina a chance at a free kick just outside the penalty area, and Messi stepped up and did this:
Lionel Messi: still amazing https://t.co/j4d81LVaYj— SB Nation Soccer (@SBNationSoccer) November 15, 2016
Messi didn’t take a bow for all the fans assembled in the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario, but he really should have after such a magnificent strike.
He wasn’t done there, either, with a pair of sumptuous assists — one to Lucas Pratto in the 23rd minute, and one all the way at the end of the match for Angel Di Maria. All night, Messi was the driving force of the match, and every exciting moment had him at the center of it.
Otherwise, the match was a little on the slow side, with Colombia struggling for any kind of response to what Argentina were doing. Even once Argentina backed off and decided to protect their lead, the Colombians weren’t able to take advantage of the space and opportunities given, and just sort of muddled their way through what should have been an important match for them to try to get a point out of.
The win was a massive one for Argentina, who move to fifth place in the CONMEBOL qualifying table for the World Cup with the three points. That would put them in the intercontinental playoff spot if qualifying ended today, with Colombia falling out of the qualifying places altogether. This is the boost Argentina needed, and when qualifying resumes next year they’ll hope to spring back up the table to where they feel they belong — while Colombia have nothing but big questions to answer now about where they’re going.
Argentina: Sergio Romero; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Ramiro Funes Mori, Emmanuel Mas; Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano; Lionel Messi, Ever Banega (Enzo Perez 63’), Angel Di Maria (Marcos Acuna 85’); Lucas Pratto (Gonzalo Higuain 79’)
Goals: Messi (10’), Pratto (23’), Di Maria (84’)
Colombia: David Ospina; Santiago Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Jeison Murillo, Eder Alvarez Balanta; Daniel Torres (Jonathan Copete 67’), Carlos Sanchez, Wilmar Barrios (Macnelly Torres 46’); Juan Cuadrado, Falcao (Carlos Bacca 76’), James Rodriguez
Three things we learned
Lionel Messi can still throw Argentina on his back.
Want to know how Argentina turned things around so thoroughly in this match after the disappointment that was their Brazil loss? It wasn’t just about being the home team this time around — it was all about Messi. Where last week he tried to be part of the team instead of a focus of it, this time around he asserted himself as the driving force of this Argentina side again, and they were much better for it. His free kick goal was ridiculous, but he was every bit as good at playing the creator, as evidenced by his cross to Pratto for Argentina’s second goal. When Messi turns it on, Argentina are hard to beat — so fans will be hoping that he pushes this hard a lot more in the future instead of just trying to be part of the team.
Gonzalo Higuain isn’t happy about being on the bench.
Nominally Argentina’s top pure striker, Higuain was left on the bench against Colombia in favor of Pratto after playing extremely poorly against Brazil last week. It was the latest in a long line of poor showings in the Albiceleste shirt for the Juventus striker, and Edgardo Bauza decided he wanted to see someone else for awhile in this match. Shots of Higuain on the bench showed him looking less than happy to be watching the match, and when Pratto scored he was briefly seen clapping politely while his teammates celebrated, quickly resuming his scowl.
Maybe if he worked at screwing up on the pitch a little less often he’d have a reason to smile instead. Just saying.
Colombia might not be all that good.
Think back for a moment: When was the last time you saw Colombia really, legitimately impress against a quality opponent? Even when they finished third in the Copa America this summer, they were only a decent team. They were downright bad in the Copa the summer before that. Their recent wins came against a mediocre Paraguay team, a horrid Venezuela side, and an inconsistent United States team. Past that and you’re too far back to call the matches "recent" — and even then, only a win against Ecuador in March can be called all that impressive.
Colombia are often talked up as a potentially strong and fun South American side, but time and again when it comes to proving that potential they fall short. They lack creativity in midfield, quality in defense, and consistency in the final third. The end product is a team that’s flat and boring more often than not, and even a performance from Argentina on Tuesday that was, in all honesty, a mediocre one for them was more than enough to blow Colombia off the pitch. That’s not a good sign for their immediate future.