Edgardo Bauza is far from out of the woods but Lionel Messi provided the perfect response to those that had questioned him once again after the defeat to Brazil with a virtuoso performance that helped Argentina to a comfortable 3-0 win against Colombia.
Sitting down in sixth, outside the World Cup qualifying places, before the start of play, the importance of three points couldn’t have been understated. Argentina needed a result and thanks to captain Messi, they got it.
José Pékerman had selected a conservative starting eleven with three central midfielders tasked with reducing the space where Messi could cause problems but after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner won a free kick some 25 yards from goal, Colombia could do nothing to prevent what followed. Messi produced one of his best strikes as the ball curled over the wall, away from David Ospina and into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
With Argentina ahead after less than ten minutes, a reaction from Colombia was expected but aside from a Falcao header that flew well over, there was almost no threat posed by Los Cafeteros and instead La Albiceleste doubled their advantage.
Messi, this time the provider, picked the ball up on the right, cut inside onto his left foot and clipped the ball perfectly over the head Davinson Sánchez into the pocket of space where Lucas Pratto lurked. The Atlético Mineiro centre forward made no mistake in nodding the ball into the bottom corner and Buaza’s decision to opt for Pratto over Gonzalo Higuaín or Sergio Agüero was vindicated.
Two goals to the good, Argentina were able to take their foot off the gas as Pékerman’s Colombia never looked like finding a way back into the game and shortly before the final whistle, the result was ensured.
Messi stole the ball from Jeison Murillo and drove into the penalty area before squaring the ball for Ángel Di María to slot in a simple third.
Argentina’s problems are far from resolved but with a break until March for the next round of qualifiers, La Albiceleste are back up into fifth and the playoff spot for Russia 2018.
Argentina 3 – 0 Colombia