Argentina in search of a way forward

So do Argentina want to play like Barcelona, or don’t they? Or more to the point, can they play like Barcelona? Perhaps after tonight’s second Group A match with Colombia we’ll have a clearer idea.

Having openly admired the Catalan model since taking over the coaching role, Sergio Batista had said in several interviews that the reference for his side would be Barcelona. But then after the disappointing draw with Bolivia in the opening game of the Copa America – disappointing for the hosts at least – he said that, in fact, he wasn’t trying to replicate the system set up by Pep Guardiola.

While pundits, journalists and supporters were outraged by what they perceived as Batista backing down on what he had said, it is a moot point. Argentina simply needs to take a step forward, regardless of how they do it.

After the media outcry at only taking a point from Bolivia, Batista has said he’ll only be making one change – bringing in full back Pablo Zabaleta for Marcos Rojo. It could be a straight swap, with the Manchester City full back on the left, or he may slip into his preferred position on the right side of defense with Javier Zanetti moving over to left back.

Lionel Messi and Argentina were left frustrated during an opening match draw with Bolivia.

However the defense lines up, it is the first aspect that Batista will look to improve. His full backs must get forward more to help the side move out of their half. In the meantime the midfield three of Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano and Ever Banega will need to combine more effectively, and more often, with the front three of Carlos Tevez, Leo Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Colombia, meanwhile, are focusing on themselves. "I’ll go crazy if I think about Argentina," said the experienced coach Hernán Darío Gómez. "How can I mark Messi, Agüero, Di María, Tevez…?"

Gómez maintains he is still building the side, but the Colombians are confident after their 1-0 win over Costa Rica, with just one change, Carlos Sánchez for Gustavo Bolívar.

Although Colombia have only won two Copa America matches against Argentina, their historic 5-0 win in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, and the 3-0 Copa America win in 1993 in which Martín Palermo missed three penalties are inevitably mentioned. For Gómez, tonight’s game is a good test to see if his side can develop into a team that matches the legendary Valderrama generation.