LA SERENA, Chile, (Reuters) – Facing a Colombia side who like to attack will force Argentina to play their best soccer in the Copa America quarter-finals, left back Marcos Rojo said.
Argentina have shown indifferent finishing in their three group matches, Lionel Messi included. They have struggled to break through defensive opponents and eked out 1-0 wins over holders Uruguay and Jamaica after a 2-2 draw with Paraguay.
They meet Colombia, who scraped through in third place in their group despite a 1-0 win over Brazil, at the Pacific coastal resort of Vina del Mar tomorrow (2330 GMT) for a place in the semi-finals of the world’s oldest active international tournament.
“Colombia are tough rivals but more open than the teams we’ve faced so far,” Rojo told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday night at Argentina’s base camp.
“On paper these are the rivals that suit us, although you’ve got to play the matches but we have a lot of faith in our game,” the Manchester United defender said.
Both sides came to the tournament in Chile among the favourites for the title but have not shown their full potential, Colombia losing 1-0 to Venezuela before beating Brazil and drawing 0-0 with Peru.
Rojo believes the Argentine team is packed with talent and capable of ending the country’s 22-year wait for a major trophy after back-to-back Copa America wins in 1991 and 1993.
“This group of players has a team essence and that is what distinguishes us. We’ve all be pulling in the same direction for some time,” Rojo said.
“Although some lads have changed since the World Cup, it’s as if we’ve all been together for a long time,” added the 25-year-old, who is at his second Copa America and will win his 36th cap against Colombia.
Argentina were close to glory last year but lost the World Cup final to Germany 1-0 after extra time in Rio de Janeiro and Rojo said the experience fortified the team.
Rojo, who is from La Plata, began his career at local side Estudiantes and helped them win the club’s fourth South American Libertadores Cup in 2009.
He moved to Spartak Moscow in December 2010 and on to Sporting of Portugal in 2012 before signing for United last August after the World Cup.
Often criticised by Argentina fans in his early days in the team, Rojo won them over with good performances at the World Cup including a goal against Nigeria, for which they composed a song, and a “rabona” clearance in defence against Bosnia.
His rabona, a movement wrapping one leg round behind the other to kick the ball associated with compatriots Diego Maradona, Claudio Borghi and more recently by Tottenham Hotspur’s Erik Lamela, appeared again against Jamaica on Saturday.