Argentina v Colombia | Saturday 15th June 2019, 23:00 | Premier Sports
Argentina, deemed second favourites behind hosts Brazil to win the 2019 Copa America, get their tournament underway at the Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova versus Colombia, in a game which will many are already claiming to be a likely decider to see who will win Group B.
With six points expected from Paraguay and Qatar to come for both, it is important these outfits hit the ground running, although both will still expect a rather smooth passage into the knockout rounds.
Lionel Scaloni’s La Albiceleste do have something of a tradition in Copa America’s to make it to the final, having done so in four of the last five occasions. They once again have a squad fuelled with offensive talent as they look to win a first title since 1993, headlined of course by Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, with supporting acts like Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria also looking to play their part.
Familiar face and international manager journeyman Carlos Queiroz will be in the Colombian dugout after he was appointed earlier this year. This will be his first competitive match at the helm. They too have a solid squad available to them, with James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Duvan Zapata and Juan Cuadrado in the mix. They arguably have a stronger defensive line than Argentina, with Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez likely to be covering a possible weak link in goalkeeper David Ospina, once of Arsenal.
Whilst both teams will view this as an opportunity to really take this group by the scruff of the neck, there is no doubting that both will be wary of losing this as well. Whilst progression into the next round is not necessarily in doubt, considering two third-placed sides will also make it through, both will be looking to ease their way into the tournament and go from strength-to-strength.
Colombia themselves are entering looking to win the whole thing, and they should have such aspirations given the players they have. The question is if they can do the goods against the bigger nations, such as Argentina.
Tight tussle anticipated
The two sides met last September in a friendly on neutral ground, which ended in a rather dull 0-0. It is however worth bearing in mind that Argentina were far from full strength, and used it as something of an experimental squad.
However, this meeting has traditional been a tight and close affair over the years. Six of the last eight head-to-head has ended below the 1.50 goal line. In qualification for the World Cup in Russia, Argentina did the double over Colombia, which meant that Colombia suffered two of their five losses at the hands of the team then managed by Tata Martino.
Taking everything into account, I think my first selection is understandable. Given the history of this fixture, and the fact that it is indeed the first match taking place in this group, but Half Time Draw looks more than worth a play, even more so at 21/20 (RedZone).
This is a game which commonly has not witnessed too many goals, but of course things could open up later on. I am resistant to back under’s in any game involving Messi, given he is capable of anything, and despite the fact of his ‘troubles’ in an Argentina shirt in comparison to that of a Barcelona one.
Queiroz wants his team to keep the ball, but they may have to suffer a little bit to a degree in having to get behind the ball for a period, certainly to begin with. Messi will put fear into them, but they’ll believe if they can keep him quiet then there is every chance of gaining a positive result. Playing on the counter attack with the players they have wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, especially with Argentina somewhat vulnerable in these situations.
Three of Argentina’s four games at the World Cup were level at the break, including the first two in the group stage. Also, three of Colombia’s four World Cup clashes were even at the interval, including their first group match.
City star to see a card
There is one final play for this game that I will entertain purely from a price perspective and it is one I am not prepared to turn down. Nicolas Otamendi is certainly someone who loves a tackle. The Manchester City man only started 14 Premier League matches last season, but he will start at the heart of Scaloni’s defence for this tournament.
It would be fair to say that he might be on the rusty side considering that playing 90 minutes in Argentina’s pre-Copa America warm-up match with Nicaragua was his first 90 minute showing since Man City losing to Spurs in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final first leg back in early April. He only has two full 90 minutes in the last possible 10 games he has been involved in, playing only a combined total of 186 minutes in that period.
Otamendi only has one Premier League booking to his name, but he earned four in his five Champions League appearances. Also, he becomes something of a beast when pulling on the international jersey. He has booked in two of his four World Cup games in Russia, and also in seven of their 15 qualification clashes, too.
With Colombia offering a big danger in attack, the 31-year-old might be prone to committing the odd foul or two to prevent counter attacks from extending any further than they have to. 5/2 (Unibet) on Otamendi To Be Shown A Card is a further fun interest in this game, but one which has a good chance.
Argentina v Colombia – Half Time Draw (21/20 RedZone)
Argentina v Colombia – Nicolas Otamendi To Be Shown A Card (5/2 Unibet)