Argentina under-23s began their preparations for the pre-Olympic tournament in emphatic fashion at the Estadio Florencio Sola with a thumping 5-0 win over Bolivia.
Ezequiel Ponce came off the bench to score the easiest of second-half hat-tricks adding to earlier goals from Julián Álvarez and Carlos Valenzuela.
The pre-Olympic tournament that will hopefully see Fernando Batista’s side book a place in Tokyo takes place in Colombia in January and taking advantage of the international breaks, Argentina have scheduled a series of friendlies to help Batista narrow his selection.
Naturally much of the squad are those players that participated in the under-20 World Cup and more recently lifted won Panamerican gold but there have been a number of terrific additions to the group. Yet despite those new faces, it was one of the World Cup squad that delivered the breakthrough, River Plate’s Julián Álvarez thrashing the ball inside the Bolivian goalkeeper’s near post.
It took less than a minute after the restart for Argentina to double their lead as Carlos Valenzuela, one of the revelations from the Panamerican games, cut inside onto his left foot to delicately bend the ball into the far corner.
Substitutions followed but the floodgates had opened and Argentina looked capable of scoring with every attack.
Matías Vargas rolled the ball into the path of the just introduced Ezequiel Ponce to tap in Argentina’s third and the former Newell’s Old Boys centre forward virtually walked his second into the net minutes later.
With the 90 minutes coming to an end Argentina wrapped up the win, Lucas Robertone slipping in Nahuel Barrios to square for Ponce to complete his hat-trick in the simplest of fashion.
Batista’s side will now play Colombia under-23s on Sunday afternoon.
Ezequiel Centurión (Juan Pablo Cozzani); Marcelo Herrera, Nehuén Pérez, Marcos Senesi (Lisandro Martínez), Claudio Bravo; Fausto Vera (Santiago Ascacibar), Santiago Colombatto (Kevin Gutiérrez); Julián Álvarez (Lucas Robertone), Carlos Valenzuela, Matías Vargas (Nahuel Barrios); Julián Carranza (Ezequiel Ponce)