It is very difficult to read too much into a friendly as one-sided as Argentina’s demolition of Bolivia in Houston. Despite naming a second-string starting eleven, Gerardo Martino’s side were utterly dominant and were four goals to the good by the time Lionel Messi was introduced to a rapturous reception in the 65th minute. Sergio Agüero and Ezequiel Lavezzi, two of the more familiar faces to the Argentina set-up had both scored braces before Messi got in on the act but perhaps the only really eye-catching performances was that of new Atlético Madrid recruit, Matías Kranevitter. The 22-year-old gave an assured performance in front of the defence and provided further evidence that he is the long-term replacement of Javier Mascherano at number five.
It took only four minutes for Argentina to take the lead in Houston but the simplicity of the ball in behind the static Bolivian defence set the tone for the entire 90 minutes. Sergio Agüero was the provider and Ezequiel Lavezzi made no mistake in controlling the clipped pass and drilling the ball low past Daniel Vaca.
Even at this early stage, the Argentine defence was almost redundant but Kranevitter had already caught attention with his effective ball-winning in midfield and simple yet effective passing. Agüero doubled the lead with a delightful chip over Vaca and shortly after created a second goal for Lavezzi. The Manchester City striker held off a couple of defenders before slipping the ball into the path of Lavezzi to stroke the ball through the legs of an already bewildered Vaca.
Not long after half-time the two combined again as Lavezzi rolled the ball across goal for Agüero to delicately finish the move and move level with his former father-in-law, Diego Maradona in the list of record Argentina goal scorers.
Lionel Messi was introduced, as these occasions seem to dictate that those in the stadium at least get a glimpse of the world’s best player, and within minutes plundered Argentina’s fifth. Kranevitter astutely spread the ball wide to the impressive Milton Casco and his cross from the right was headed powerfully into the bottom corner by Messi.
Messi soon grabbed a second of the night and it was old friend Agüero who provided the pass. A third assist of the night for Kun was gladly gobbled up by Messi, who barely lost stride in collecting the pass and rounding Vaca.
Another of Atlético Madrid’s impressive Argentine youngsters was then given his debut and within three minutes, Ángel Correa netted his first goal – the fastest debut goal in Argentina history. Kranevitter was the provider with a measured through-ball and Correa confidently stroked a first-time finish into the bottom corner with his right foot. The combination of Kranevitter and Correa is one that Argentina supporters will hope to see much more of over the coming years and certainly the early signs were encouraging.
Gerardo Martino became only the second Argentina manager to win two matches by seven or more (the other being the friendly victory over Hong Kong last year) and in truth this could have been far more. Bolivia offered almost no threat whatsoever and as a result it was impossible to judge the likes of Funes Mori or Rodríguez in defence. La Albiceleste won at a canter and Mexico on Tuesday should give a little more competition.