December 20, 2014
Argentina go with attacking line-up
Uruguay boss Tabárez says team must stop Messi getting ball
Argentina play Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier in Mendoza this evening with their dangerous attacking trio of Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín. But Uruguay’s coach, Oscar Tabárez, says they will have to focus on Messi.
Argentina have looked like the team they’re supposed to be so far in World Cup qualifying: fluid and high-scoring with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergio Agüero leading the way.
Argentina face neighbours Uruguay today in one of four South America qualifiers. With due respect to Higuaín and Agüero, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabárez knows his defence needs to focus on Messi.
“We have to keep Messi from getting the ball,” Tabárez said. “His role has to be limited. It will be a disappointment if he’s in the game and scores a goal.”
Other games taking place today are: Colombia v Paraguay; Ecuador v Chile; and Bolivia v Peru. Venezuela have the day off and Brazil have qualified automatically as host.
Argentina lead the qualifying group with 14 points. Colombia and Ecuador trail by one, Uruguay and Chile by two, and Venezuela by three. The three remaining teams, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay, are long shots to reach the 2014 World Cup.
Argentina have vastly improved under coach Alejandro Sabella, who took over after Sergio Batista was fired following last year’s Copa América and the loss to Uruguay on penalties in the quarterfinals. It was the last time the teams played each other.
Argentina are in good shape for the match in Mendoza, missing only backup forward Ezequiel Lavezzi with a knee injury. Uruguay will be without two injured defenders Diego Pérez and Gastón Ramírez.
Colombia, who look like the s biggest challenger under Argentine coach José Pekerman, will be strong favourites at home against Paraguay, who have played in the last four World Cups and reached the quarterfinals two years ago in South Africa, but with only four points at the moment they have little chance this time.
Colombia’s main man is Atlético de Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who shares the scoring lead in Spain with eight goals, the same as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has three in South American qualifying, which is led by Higuaín and Luis Suárez of Uruguay with six.
Weather could be a factor in the Colombian port city of Barranquilla, where temperatures could reach 34ºC.
Chile have a key match in Quito, Ecuador. Chile have two problems: coach Claudio Borghi has been suspended for four matches, and there is also the matter of the altitude — 2,850 metres in Quito.
Bolivia and Peru are fighting for survival. The game is being played in La Paz so, as always, Bolivia will have the advantage in the thin air at 3,500 metres. The Peruvians have spent 10 days training in the Peruvian city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire located high in the Andes at 3,400 metres.
It will be the first home match for Bolivia coach Xabier Azkargorta, the Spaniard who led Bolivia to the World Cup in 1994 — the last time they reached the final tournament.
Argentina and Uruguay have met eight times in World Cup qualifying matches with Argentina winning four times, Uruguay once while three have been draws.
Argentine coach Sabella said in last night’s press conference that his starting lineup will be the same with which he has been working in training: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernández, Marcos Rojo; Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Ángel Di María; Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín.
Uruguay are expected to field Fernando Muslera; Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Lugano, Diego Godín, Martín Cáceres; Álvaro González, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Walter Gargano, Édinson Cavani; Diego Forlán and Luis Suárez.
Yesterday, while the Argentine team were in their hotel there was a 5.7 (Richter scale) earthquake.
Herald staff with agencies