For all of Argentina’s recent failings at youth level Fernando Batista should take a strong under-23 squad to the 2020 Olympics after the Albiceleste defeated Colombia on Thursday evening to win the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic tournament.
Brazil’s earlier draw with Uruguay had left Argentina under-23s in the knowledge that a sixth consecutive victory would not only clinch the title but would book a spot at Tokyo 2020 and although Colombia presented the toughest test to date, Batista’s side held on for the vital win.
There has been much to admire from this Argentina side over the past three weeks with the attacking prowess of Alexis Mac Allister and Adolfo Gaich catching the eye but against Colombia it was more about their resolve and organisation.
Colombia were the better side during the opening 45 minutes with River Plate’s frustrating individualistic talent Jorge Carrascal spurning one excellent chance and Johan Carbonero inches away from sliding in the opener when a shot flashed across the face of goal.
Just a couple of off-target snap shots from Agustín Urzi was all Argentina really had to offer but minutes after the restart the Banfield winger broke the deadlock with a sensational long range effort that left Esteban Ruiz rooted to the spot as it nestled in the top corner.
It was scarcely deserved but Argentina led and soon after doubled the advantage, the impressive Nehuén Pérez heading in from Alexis Mac Allister’s corner.
A place in Tokyo was within touching distance yet Argentina were made to suffer. Hernán De La Fuente’s clumsy pull on Carbonero in the penalty area allowed Edwin Cetré to pull a goal back from the spot with 25 minutes still to play and when Urzi foolishly got himself sent off moments later for a kick out at Willer Ditta, it would be a long second half.
With Colombia now dominant chances came and went and somehow Argentina’s lead remained intact. One final glaring miss by Mender Garciá at the death handed victory to the Albiceleste and with it the title.
If Fernando Batista has this squad and some of those not made available this month for Tokyo, Argentina can go to the Olympics with the very real intention of challenging once more for gold.