The second half couldn’t have started better for Bolivia as a horrendous error from an Argentine player allowed them to take the lead.
In the 46th minute, Bolivia’s corner was met with a cheeky back-heeled shot from Edivaldo Rojas and the ball rolled to Argentina’s midfielder Ever Banega, defending the near post. Banega had ample time and opportunity to clear but, somehow, the ball trickled through his legs and over the line before ‘keeper Romero could pounce on it. A shocking mistake.
From that point it was all hands on deck for Argentina, who went to a three-man and then a two-man defense as their players streamed forward. But a break-through was not forthcoming. Lavezzi proved ineffective on the right, substitute Di Maria hogged the ball on the left and Leo Messi, lost in the clutter of midfield, disappeared from the game.
Finally, Coach Batista brought on young Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid. He should have started. Within minutes of being on the pitch, “El Kun” had scored the equalizer, a beautiful right-footed volley into the top of the net after Burdisso chested down Di Maria’s cross.The announcer on the Spanish-language channel my father and I were watching (ESPN chose to show NASCAR instead!!) screamed “GOOOOLAAAAAZOOOO!!” for a good thirty seconds.
In the end, Argentina could not find the go-ahead goal and Bolivia earned a well-deserved point. The Bolivians could even have snatched an unlikely win but striker Marcelo Martins Moreno could not finish a one-on-one with Argentina’s goalie.
Despite the host’s disappointing performance, no riots have broken out in La Plata. So far. Fingers crossed.
It’s only the first match but Argentina will have to improve if they hope to earn their mantle as tournament favorites.
And this game confirmed a worrying suspicion: Argentina do not know how to use Leo Messi, far and away the world’s best player. For his club, Barcelona, Messi plays as an attacking right winger, his natural position. For some reason, a succession of Argentina coaches have insisted on using him farther back. This must change. The closer Messi is to goal, the better.
Innovation of the day: Referee Mr. Silvera carried a can of spray paint on his belt (I assumed at first that it was a water bottle) and used it to mark the proper location of free kicks and defensive walls. I’ve never seen that before. Anyone know where/when it started?