Messi not himself for floundering Argentina

SANTA FE, (Reuters) – Lionel Messi has become an even  more isolated player for Argentina at the Copa America than he  was at the 2010 World Cup, a forlorn figure missing the telling  passes of his club mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Lionel Messi

Messi, mesmerising for Barcelona, has had limited influence  in the hosts’ first two matches in Group A, a 1-1 draw with  Bolivia and Wednesday’s 0-0 stalemate with Colombia.

Coach Sergio Batista preaches a game that is centred around  Messi but it is not working in a competitive context in the way  it appeared to flourish in friendlies.

Argentina have been thwarted by two well organised sides  with Colombia’s Hernan Dario Gomez showing the extent of his  nous as a coach in his near-flawless tactics against Batista’s.

Had Colombia’s attack put away one of several chances, the  game plan would have been perfect but they were profligate while  Argentina’s Sergio Romero had a man-of-the-match game in goal.

The best thing Messi did in the 90 minutes against Colombia  was the brilliant through-ball to Ezequiel Lavezzi in the first  half that the winger should have buried in the Colombia net.

That is not, however, the role Batista really has for Messi.  He wants to see Messi receiving such passes and putting away the  goals himself.

Absent playmaker

It will hardly ever happen while Batista plays three natural  central midfielders in Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and  Esteban Cambiasso and no true link-man like Juan Roman Riquelme.
Riquelme and Messi combined to inspire Argentina to Olympic  gold in Beijing in 2008, the one international title Batista has  won as a coach.

There is a classic playmaker in Argentina’s Copa America  squad, Javier Pastore, but Batista seems reluctant to use him  even as a substitute.

“I remain confident in these players, I have the players  (but) the functioning (of the team) is costing us a bit,”  Batista told the post-match news conference.

“One tries to give them a footballing idea, but in these two  matches we haven’t seen it.”

Batista said he would stick to his guns, adding: “We’re  going to continue to try playing good football, we’re not going  to try to win any old how.”

Colombia’s performance, in contrast, was pleasing for Gomez,  who said: “We had a decent match and I think we’re building  something important for the 2014 (World Cup) qualifiers.

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