Argentina player ratings v Colombia: Flawless Messi gets qualification back on track

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Argentina were in desperate need of three points on Tuesday evening, anything less would have left World Cup qualification looking precarious, and while big question marks hang over Edgardo Bauza and his squad, Lionel Messi ensured that La Albiceleste move forward to March in much better shape. The dependence on the mercurial captain was as evident as ever but while Brazil managed to shut down Messi last Thursday, against Colombia, the 29-year-old ran riot.

Sergio Romero – 6

The most disappointing part of Colombia’s performance was how little Sergio Romero had to do. Over the 90 minutes, Los Cafeteros failed to register a shot on goal and although James Rodríguez hit the woodwork, Chiquito was virtually a spectator. The Manchester United keeper did what was required with his feet and claimed any loose balls that he needed to.

Gabriel Mercado – 6

One of Edgardo Bauza’s three changes following the Brazil game handed Gabriel Mercado another shot to replace Pablo Zabaleta as Argentina’s right back and while the Sevilla defender hasn’t yet made the position his own, it was another decent performance. The 29-year-old was firm in the tackle and tried to get forward down the right when he could. Perhaps could have done better with a header when forward for a free kick.

Nicolás Otamendi – 6

A powerful display from Nicolás Otamendi provided a good response to the difficult evening he endured in Belo Horizonte. Strong in the air, the Manchester City defender gave Falcao very little and wasn’t far away from scoring when getting into the Colombian penalty area for a set-piece.

Ramiro Funes Mori – 5.5

An improved performance from the one against Brazil but question marks still remain over Ramiro Funes Mori as an international centre back. The 25-year-old picked up another booking and will miss the game against Chile in March.

Emmanuel Mas – 5

Left back remains an area of weakness for Argentina and like Gabriel Mercado on the opposite flank, it’s difficult to be 100% convinced by Emmanuel Mas. Colombia appeared to think so and in the opening exchanges, Juan Cuadrado looked like he might give the San Lorenzo defender a night to forget. However, Mas weathered the early storm and improved.

Lucas Biglia – 6

Lucas Biglia did what was asked of him with minimal effort and so his performance went somewhat under the radar. Simple keeping of possession and winning the ball was what Bauza wanted and that’s what he got. The question is perhaps more with the system rather than with Biglia – could Argentina not utilise a more progressive central midfield?

Javier Mascherano – 6.5

A typically battling performance from Javier Mascherano protected the defence and ensured Argentina won the ball back as quickly as possible. Passing at times still remains a little wayward when looking long but it was an improvement on Thursday’s defeat.

Lionel Messi – 10

An incredible performance that renders the opinions of those that still question Messi as utterly foolish. Quite how this match would have played out without the Barcelona star taking control is not worth thinking about for Argentina but Colombia certainly couldn’t contain the best player on the planet. The free kick to open the scoring was outrageous but the awareness to sit in the pocket of space out wide completely nullified, José Pékerman’s packed midfield. The pass for the second was pin-point and the third was a bit of everything given it was Messi the won the ball in the first place before rolling it to Di María.

Éver Banega – 7

Without doing anything of real note, Banega managed to do enough to show that Bauza perhaps made a mistake in not playing him against Brazil. Argentina are much better in possession with the Inter Milan midfielder and his position on the pitch certainly helps free space for Messi.

Ángel Di María – 6.5

Another tireless performance from Di María but one that lacked accuracy in the final third, as it does all too often. The 28-year-old was rewarded with a simple goal late on.

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Lucas Pratto – 8

Many questioned Bauza’s decision to play Lucas Pratto as the spearhead of the attack over the more familiar Gonzalo Higuaín or Sergio Agüero and although the Atlético Mineiro centre forward may not be the long term answer, it was an excellent performance. His workrate and ability to join the play was never in doubt but the 28-year-old took his goal well and until Argentina look elsewhere for a number nine, the shirt may remain Pratto’s.

Substitutes

Enzo Pérez – 6

After a decent first half showing against Brazil, Enzo Pérez was a little unlucky to be subbed off and then lose his place. The Valencia midfielder didn’t get much of a chance when he replaced Banega against Colombia but showed the drive that he provides from deep to help Messi down the right for the third goal.

Gonzalo Higuaín – Unfairly whistled when replacing Pratto, Gonzalo Higuaín didn’t see much of the ball in his brief cameo.

Marcos Acuña – An international debut for Marcos Acuña but not one which you could recall anything that he did. The Racing midfielder replaced Di María with minutes remaining.

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