CORDOBA, Argentina, (Reuters) – Lionel Messi’s Argentina put their Copa America fortunes on the line today (0045 GMT Tuesday) against a Costa Rica side assembled at the last minute.
The hosts, boasting half a dozen of the world’s top forwards and the pre-tournament favourites, have struggled and have found the net only once in two draws against Bolivia and Colombia.
The Costa Ricans, with a young side under wily Argentine coach Ricardo La Volpe, shocked Bolivia 2-0 in Jujuy on Thursday to take second place in Group A behind Colombia and above Argentina.
Messi, his team mates and coach Sergio Batista have come under fire from media and fans with former captain and 2010 World Cup coach Diego Maradona stepping in to demand more support for Argentina.
“We Argentines can’t behave like this with the best (player) in the world,” Maradona said, criticising reports attacking Messi. An emotional Maradona, whose mother is in hospital, also told the sports daily Ole in an exclusive interview published on Sunday (www.ole.com.ar), that he would have struggled playing with three holding midfielders.
Batista plays Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Esteban Cambiasso in the middle of a 4-3-3 formation. Sergio Aguero, as a substitute against Bolivia, has scored their only goal of the tournament so far.