Argentina served notice to the Western Hemisphere that they are the Copa America tournament favorite as Los Gauchos dispatched world #5 Chile 2-1 on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium. The fact Argentina dominated the match sans Leo Messi, arguably the best player in the world, should make all other teams nervous going forward.
Argentina’s Three Keys to Victory
Argentina had a solid game plan versus Chile which relied upon three facets to earn the three points and put them atop Group D.
In what was regarded as one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament, Argentina made the most of transition offense to keep the Chilean defense on their toes. Both of Argentina’s goals, and numerous scoring opportunities, were from the counter-attack. The counter also allowed Argentina to generate 17 shots, including 12 shots inside the 18-yard-box, despite losing the possession battle 58%-42%, and the passing battle 524-374. Imagine what might have been if Lionel Messi were playing.
A frustrating defense
The unsung heroes of Monday’s match were the Argentinian defenders. The backline of Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Ramiro Funas Mori, and Marcos Rojo stifled the Chilean build up, limiting Chilean attackers Eduardo Vargas and Jean Beausejour to zero shots all game. Forward Alexis Sanchez was Chile’s best attacker, but his kryponite was Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who managed to get gloves on all three of Sanchez’s shots on target. Chile mustered nine shots, with just five coming inside the 18-yard-box despite dominating passing and possession. If the defense is continues to limit possession inside the box, don’t expect much scoring from opposing teams.
Argentina was not frustrated, even after the first half which saw a goalless scoreline and just one shot on target. The patience bore fruit in the second half as Argentina started converting their shots to challenge Chilean ‘keeper Claudio Bravo, leading to Angel di Maria‘s and Ever Banega‘s goals at 51′ and 59’. As the tournament continues, Argentina should be converting more shots on goal, which could make them the highest scoring team in the Copa America tournament.
Expect Argentina to continue to use these keys against future opponents. Their speed, defensive prowess, and patience both on and off the ball kept a steady pressure on Chile, which proved to be crucial in their victory. Now the onus is on other teams to figure out how to crack Argentina’s defense and thwart their attack; good luck!