In the extreme altitude of La Paz yesterday afternoon Argentina took another step towards the World Cup in Brazil after a gruelling 1 – 1 draw. One of the hardest away trips in International football the stalemate actually proved to be a good result despite Argentina having the chances to win the game. Lionel Messi showed that he is human after all, missing a guilt edged chance in the last 5 minutes when one on one with the goalkeeper but the captain was still pleased with his side’s performance and the result. Messi looked exhausted but told reporters that this was a “terrific point”. REPORT AND GOALS HERE….
Alejandro Sabella rung the changes after Friday’s win over Venezuela with only captain Messi, Javier Mascherano and goalkeeper, Sergio Romero remaining and he will be pleased by the battling performance that his side displayed. There was also chances for several domestic players, which is always good to see for the Primera Division. Sabella, aware of the fact that Bolivia would start strongly, opted for a defensive lineup, that would be able to thwart any Bolivian attacks and then attack quickly through the returning Angel Di Maria, Messi and Inter Milan striker, Rodrigo Palacio. The five man defence, made up predominantly of domestic players did their job: Velez players, Sebastian Dominguez and Gino Peruzzi, and Boca full back, Clemente Rodriguez where joined by Campagnaro of Napoli and Basanta of Mexican side, Monterrey. Credit where it is due, they got the job done but Argentina would be wary to play, particularly Rodriguez against top opposition. The Bolivians at times appeared to target the Boca man and had some success in creating dangerous positions down his side, including the goal.
After soaking up a fair amount of pressure, on 25 minutes the Argentinian defence finally buckled. Bolivia were able to create a crossing opportunity down Argentina’s left and it was met perfectly by the head of Marcelo Martins. Just before half time Argentina got back on level terms when Clemente Rodriguez got away down the left and his floated cross found an unmarked Ever Banega, who managed to direct his header into the bottom corner to score his first goal for the national side.
The second half continued in much the same pattern but the Argentinian players were visibly wilting with the lack of oxygen. Di Maria’s constant running, showed his importance to the side as he was always the outball, particularly with Messi not having one of his best games. Di Maria was eventually substituted for Pablo Guiñazu but he had put in a great shift. In fact, in the closing minutes, Argentina could have won it. Lionel Messi intercepted a sloppy defensive pass and was through on goal but miraculously Messi hesitated and shot straight at Sergio Galarza.
With the point Argentina improved dramatically on the 6 – 1 humbling they received last time round and moved closer to qualifying for the World Cup. When they play their next double header in June, this can be guaranteed and Sabella can start making the final preparations to claim football’s top prize on the soil of the old enemy.