Argentina sealed their place in the Copa América quarter finals and on paper, at least, the 5-0 scoreline against Panama suggests an easy evening for Gerardo Martino’s side. However, one man can take the credit for the margin of victory after a frustrating opening hour. We look back on how La Albiceleste performed in Chicago and who stood out….
Sergio Romero – 6
A pretty quiet evening for Chiquito despite Panama threatening in the first 45 minutes. The Manchester United keeper dealt with a Camargo free kick well but otherwise had little to do.
Gabriel Mercado – 5.5
Mercado was unable to get forward with the success that he has in recent games and in the first half was given a difficult time by Alberto Quintero.
Nicolás Otamendi – 7.5
Importantly Otamendi headed Argentina into an early lead but also did well at the other end to deny the dangerous Blas Pérez any opportunities.
Ramiro Funes Mori – 6
A few worrying moments in the first half as Argentina struggled to control Panama as a team but after the break as Los Canaleros’ attacking threat diminished, Funes Mori had little to worry about.
Marcos Rojo – 6.5
Defended well enough particularly after weathering the early pressure but importantly enjoyed some success going forward. Linked up well with Di María before the break and assisted Agüero for his goal with a good run from deep.
Augusto Fernández – 6
Much of Augusto’s work goes unnoticed as the Atlético Madrid midfielder busily goes about his business in front of the defence. Tidy in possession and a decent ball winner.
Javier Mascherano – 6
Something of a silly yellow card for getting involved in a spat with Panama captain Felipe Baloy but otherwise another solid and resourceful game for El Jefecito.
Nicolás Gaitán – 6
Didn’t have quite the same impact as he did in the win over Chile but without the space to run into, the entire Argentina attack suffered. Gaitán remained on the periphery of the game but certainly did his cause no harm with another hardworking and useful performance out wide.
Éver Banega – 7
Argentina undoubtedly struggled prior to the introduction of Messi but any moments of joy came via the vision of Banega. The Sevilla midfielder perhaps didn’t dictate as was required but came close to unlocking the Panama defence on a couple of occasions.
Ángel Di María – 6.5
A superb free kick delivery provided Argentina with the lead but injury once again cut short El Fideo’s evening. Di María could now miss the rest of the tournament and given his form and importance to the side, the news is a real blow.
Gonzalo Higuaín 5.5
Rather isolated during the first half but shortly after the break, Banega did manage to release the Napoli striker only for a last ditch tackle to deny him. Higuaín desperately needs another goal for Argentina but it never looked likely on Friday.
Érik Lamela – 6
Di María’s injury could be a huge opportunity for Lamela but the Tottenham player must contribute more to the attack to ensure his place in the starting eleven. Lacking the directness of El Fideo, the Panama defence appeared more comfortable in their efforts to keep the 24-year-old under wraps.
Lionel Messi – 10
Worryingly for the rest of the competition, Messi claimed that he was still not 100% but his 30 minute cameo suggested quite the opposite. With Argentina struggling to extend their lead, the Barcelona star entered the pitch and immediately changed the course of the game. Three goals in less than 25 minutes disguised what had previously been a pretty poor performance.
Sergio Agüero – 7
Replacing Higuaín late on once again, Agüero was unable to make much of an impression but found himself in the right place to head Argentina’s fifth and is surely pushing the Napoli striker for a starting role in that number nine position.