Edgardo Bauza is likely to be pleased with his first match as Argentina coach, not least because of the vital three points gained from victory over Uruguay but the different qualities that were evident at times. In a dominant first half, there were signs of a promising new attack and after falling to ten men, El Patón will have been impressed by the defensive resolve his side displayed. Lionel Messi snatched the headlines with the only goal of the game on his return but how did the rest of the Argentina eleven fare?
Sergio Romero – 6
A pretty quiet evening for Chiquito despite Argentina playing with ten for more than half the match. A couple of routine saves from outside the penalty area and decent enough distribution to his defenders provided the backline with the security and confidence to keep another clean sheet.
Pablo Zabaleta – 6
Returning from his injury absence to take the place of the impressive Gabriel Mercado, Zabaleta needed to justify Edgardo Bauza’s decision to reinstate him. The Manchester City defender didn’t exactly do that but he did everything required. Solid defensively but not much to add going forward.
Nicolás Otamendi – 6
A couple of shaky moments when attempting to shackle Luis Suárez but a typically bullish display from Otamendi who dealt well with any crosses or aeriel passes into the Argentina penalty area. The 28-year-old’s passing out of defence remains suspect and he gave away possession needlessly a few times.
Ramiro Funes Mori – 7.5
One of Funes Mori’s best displays in an Argentina shirt as he continues to defy his critics and fully justify his place in the starting eleven. The best of the back four, the Everton defender was strong and determined in the tackle, excellent in the air and importantly at ease bringing the ball forward. Suárez and Cavani barely had a sniff and the 25-year-old should take credit for that.
Emmanuel Más – 6
Is Emmanuel Más the long term solution to the dearth of quality left backs for Argentina? No, probably not but with Marcos Rojo injured, Bauza turned to someone he knew well and wasn’t let down. Más did what was asked of him defensively and almost created an opening goal for Messi with an intelligent run and headed knock-down but the position still looks up for grabs.
Lucas Biglia – 7
Another place that is perhaps under threat with the arrival of a new coach, Lucas Biglia gave a decent audition to continue as Javier Mascherano’s central midfield partner for now. The Lazio man complemented El Jefecito and tried to get the ball to Messi as quick as possible but it was when Argentina went to ten men when Biglia really proved his worth. Competition in the squad means Biglia can’t afford to let his level drop at all.
Javier Mascherano – 9
A tremendous game from Mascherano which saw all his battling, ball winning qualities (that are now largely taken for granted) but most impressively showcased his best passing display in a long time. Positive forward passing replaced the sometimes static sideways movement of the ball and suddently El Jefecito was providing another level of incision from deep. Some superbs passes over the top for Di María, Más and Dybala almost brought goals and hopefully it is a sign of tactical progression under Bauza.
Lionel Messi – 9
Welcome back Leo! The supporters in Mendoza let their captain know exactly what they thought of him and it was repaid with another match winning display. Threatening before his wonderful opportunistic goal (yes I know it took a deflection but the space was created and Messi rolled the dice in a crowded penalty area), Messi put in a real leader’s performance despite the pain of the injury that almost ruled him out. The nut-meg on poor Mathías Corujo a highlight but the Barcelona star contined to torment Uruguay even when down to ten men.
Paulo Dybala – 5.5
For 44 minutes Dybala was fully justifying Bauza’s decision to play him in the number 10 role and the flashes of link-up play with Messi and the shot drilled against the post provided a tantalising glimpse into the future. That of course remains but unfortunately some overly harsh refereeing and perhaps a little naivety on the part of 22-year-old led to a red card that left Argentina having to defend their slender lead. There is no blame to attribute and Dybala should be straight back into the side after his suspension.
Ángel Di María – 5.5
Certainly not Di María’s best performance for Argentina as El Fideo failed to have much of an impact and never really seemed to integrate into the attacking system. As always the Paris Saint-Germain forward provided the width and the pace to counter but there was little end product with Uruguay obviously wary of his threat.
Lucas Pratto – 6
A difficult debut for Lucas Pratto who was forced to play with his back to goal for much of the first half up against the bruising Diego Godín. The Atlético Mineiro striker linked up play where he could and displayed his versatitilty after Dybala’s sending off by slotting in on the right hand side. Once Bauza has everyone available again, Pratto is likely to lose his place in the squad but he certainly didn’t let anyone down in Mendoza.
Lucas Alario – 6.5
Someone who may well have a future in Bauza’s Argentina squad will be Lucas Alario and although the 23-year-old didn’t get too long to shine and was asked to do a job in an unfamiliar right-sided position, the River Plate striker exhibited some neat touches and carried out defensive duties in the closing stages.
Nicolás Gaitán – only a few minutes for the Atlético Madrid midfielder but with Dybala suspended and Messi possibly injured, Gaitán will likely start against Venezuela.