INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his verdict on Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier from San Juan.
Argentina v Colombia | Tuesday 23:30
San Juan, one Argentina's major wine producing regions, hosts a critical World Cup qualifier on Tuesday evening as La Albiceleste go in desperate search of a positive result following their abysmal 3-0 loss to great rivals Brazil.
Captain Lionel Messi said his side need a “drastic change” in mentality if they are to realise their dream of making it to Russia in 2018 whilst Argentina sports newspaper Olé called the performance a “catastrophe”.
Argentina in crisis
Now down in sixth, qualification is by no means a foregone conclusion for La Albiceleste having failed to win any of their previous four qualifiers for the first time since their inconsistent path to the 2010 World Cup.
Argentina have claiming only four triumphs in 11 encounters en-route to Russia and since losing the Copa America final on penalties this summer, the headline act have won once in five. Make no bones about it, Argentina are in crisis.
Edgardo Bauza’s men worked well for 25 minutes in Brazil – their cautious 4-4-2 contained their hosts down the flanks and provided the platform for Messi. But they couldn’t maintain their defensive solidity and they once again looked horribly exposed at the back.
Argentina’s defence lack pace and genuine talent. Neither Nicolas Otamendi nor fellow centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori have looked comfortable and they’ve now shipped seven goals in their last three away games. They could have conceded seven in Belo Horizonte on Thursday night had Brazil been more ruthless.
Next is a home clash with Colombia and with the hosts desperately looking to push forward in search of a crucial three points, Bauza’s boys could be vulnerable to Colombia’s dangerous counter-attacks.
Los Cafeteros failed to impress during a 0-0 draw with Chile in Barranquilla but did give Brazil a real game just two months ago when going down 2-1 thanks to a stroke of Neymar genius. A similar approach could definitely pay dividends here.
Jose Pekerman started without Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca, instead selecting debutant Miguel Borja against Chile. Despite a promising first-half where the youngster’s lightning pace and bullish strength troubled Chile’s defence, he was pulled at the interval.
James Rodriguez was largely ineffective and Falco failed to fire having been introduced at half-time. In truth, Pekerman’s posse just didn’t do enough to warrant a 50th win under their Argentina coach.
The betting angle
The visitors are big 13/2 outsiders on Tuesday night but before gorging on such a generous price, it’s worth noting that both first choice centre-backs – Oscar Murillo and Yerry Mina – are absent, although Jeison Murillo is a very able replacement for one of those berths.
With their own backline issues, I’m not quite brave enough to back Colombia despite Argentina’s ropey W2-D1-L2 home record en-route to Russia. So instead I’ll support the visitors with a +1 Asian Handicap start at 39/40 (888) – our stake will be returned should Los Cafeteros lose by exactly a one-gaol margin.
Colombia have W6-D2-L5 on the road since qualifying began for the 2012 World Cup with only two losses ending in a defeat by at least a two-goal margin.
Argentina v Colombia – Colombia +1 Asian Handicap (39/40 888)