On Friday, there was a new set of South American Qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Both Argentina and Chile played with blaugrana stars on the field.
In the first match, Chile was defeated by Ecuador 3-1. The Chilean national team has yet to find a style or a formation that works as well as that of only two years ago. In terms of the World Cup qualifying matches, they had a good start, defeating two teams they have always defeated, but the team never displayed order or tactics in its game. There is no midfield, there is no defense, the keeper and captain -Real Sociedad’s Claudio Bravo- is injured, so it’s only logical that Alexis is all alone. In this match, that was even more apparent: he had nobody at his side. He was played as a true 9, and the only player in a forward position, forgetting that he’s never been a true number 9, a classic striker. All the responsibility of the attack was on him, while nobody helped him out.
Ecuador overcame all of Chile’s lines, despite Chile’s manager using a “defensive” formation. Ecuador generated a lot of scoring chances, but only converted three of them. Chile, meanwhile, had practically no shots near the target, and their goal was an own-goal by Paredes. Ecuador pressed hard and Chile seemed to have lost its amazing working rate the players once had under Marcelo Bielsa. Chile’s performance and, more so, the tactics, seem to be weighing on Alexis, who was insecure and nonexistent during the entire game. Chile also had two key players sent off: Pablo Contreras, the only real central defender, and Arturo Vidal, a Juventus player who lost his temper and elbowed a rival. Some people say he did it to avoid playing on Tuesday against Messi and co. That might be true.
On the other hand, Lio Messi and Javier Mascherano had a wholly different night. In a packed stadium in Mendoza, an Argentinian city near the Andes, Argentina gave a solid performance in attack, with Lio Messi leading the team. All scoring attempts came through his feet, as he was playing the role of Xavi, Iniesta, and himself. He did it all: great assists in the first half that his teammates couldn’t turn into goals, taking on all the Uruguayan defense by himself, and then, scoring twice. One of the goals, a free kick, was Ronaldinho style. As captain as well, he was in charge of facing the fierce Uruguayan defense, and he did so with aplomb.
It was another magic night for Messi, who is already the South American Qualifier’s top scorer, having converted 10 goals for his national team this year. Argentina loves him, as the crowd showed with continuous chants. It seems like, finally, Lio has found his place in a national team that he loves. Just look at that play in the first half! Here is the exact moment when Messi shoots the free kick:
Javier Mascherano also had a fantastic match. He had a tough challenge facing Luis Suarez and Diego Forlán, but was at his best, very secure and didn’t let either of them breathe. He also made very interesting passes, starting attacks on several occasions. Something to explore when he comes back to Barcelona, for sure.
Here, highlights of the game and the goals (video by GoalMix).
Next game, Chile vs. Argentina on Tuesday!