The real tournament starts now but it has been plain sailing for Argentina so far as Fernando Batista’s second string under-23 side came from behind to defeat Venezuela 4-1.
Four wins from four is an impressive start to the tournament and secured a place in the final with ease yet Argentina now face three huge matches to book one of two spots at the Tokyo Olympics.
Racing midfielder Matías Zaracho captained Argentina on Thursday against Venezuela for the final Group A game and with a place in the final already confirmed it was a chance for the remained of Batista’s squad to get some playing time.
With the look of a side playing for nothing Argentina were poor for the first 45 minutes and it was Venezuela the more lively. The dangerous Yeferson Soteldo was too quick for Maximiliano Centurión, tempting the Argentinos Juniors defender into a challenge to win a penalty after 25 minutes. Soteldo’s subsequent panenka was agonisingly out of reach for goalkeeper Juan Pablo Cozzani and Venezuela led.
The lead lasted until half time but not long after as Centurión made amends for his error, heading in Gastón Togni’s free-kick from the left.
It stayed that way until fifteen minutes from time when Zaracho arrived in the box to slide in Marcelo Herrera’s teasing cross and the goal proved decisive.
Julián Álvarez came off the bench to add a third, cutting in off the left to wrong foot Cristopher Varela at his near post and there was still time for Argentina to add a fourth. Nahuel Bustos was tripped by Varela as the Talleres striker rounded the goalkeeper and although Varela saved Bustos’ initial effort from the penalty spot the rebound was bundled in.
Group B concludes on Friday and Argentina will play the runners-up in their first game of the final round on Monday. Brazil have already earned the top spot and play Paraguay, who would leapfrog Uruguay into second with a win. However, it matters very little with the Albiceleste having to play all three finalists in the round robin and only two going on to the Olympics.
Argentina: Juan Pablo Cozzani; Marcelo Herrera, Maximiliano Centurión, Nazareno Colombo, Facundo Mura; Tomás Belmonte (Nicolás Capaldo 83′), Matías Zaracho (c), Juan Brunetta (Julián Álvarez 68′), Nahuel Bustos, Gastón Togni; Valentín Castellanos (Agustín Urzi 74′)
Venezuela: Cristopher Varela; Christian Larotonda, Rommell Ibarra, Jean Franco Fuentes, Miguel Navarro; Jesús Vargas (Jhon Marchán 82′), Cristian Cásseres Jr, Cristian Rivas, Anderson Contreras (Matías Lacava 64′); Jan Hurtado, Yeferson Soteldo (c) (Aitor López 78′)