x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Pressure on Copa favourites Argentina at the 'Elephants Graveyard'

Santa Fe is the scene of many upsets in Argentine football, their national team need to avoid being the next against Colombia tonight.

From Left to right: Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Javier Zanetti train at the Brigadier Lopez stadium in Santa Fe. It is also known as the Elephants Graveyard for the considerable amount of upsets its clubside Club Atletico Colon have produced over the years.
From Left to right: Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Javier Zanetti train at the Brigadier Lopez stadium in Santa Fe. It is also known as the Elephants Graveyard for the considerable amount of upsets its clubside Club Atletico Colon have produced over the years.

SANTA FE // The "Elephants Graveyard" has played host to a string of major upsets through the years and Argentina are determined not to become the next giant to fall there when they face Colombia in the Copa America tonight.

Argentina, the tournament hosts and favourites, were held in 1-1 draw with Bolivia in La Plata in their Group A opener and need a win at Colon's stadium tonight to get their campaign back on track.

Lionel Messi was kept quiet by a well-organised Bolivian defence and Argentina needed a late equaliser from Sergio Aguero to save their blushes.

Argentina have suffered upsets by Colombia in the past in World Cup qualifiers and in the Copa America, and the ground, officially known as the Brigadier Estanislao Lopez stadium, has been the site of some of Colon's great shocks in club football.

Argentina coach Sergio Batista acknowledged the pressure on his team after their opening draw.

"The national team always has pressure, the more so now with the obligation of winning after the draw," he said after arriving in Santa Fe with his squad.

Batista hopes his tactics work better against Colombia than they did against Bolivia when Messi was drawn deep into midfield to get possession.

The coach us expected to attack again with a Messi and Carlos Tevez pairing, but the pair seldom work well together.

"Messi had a good first half but when we gets disorganised maybe he gets lost," Batista told a news conference. "Even if we'd won, there were things that needed correcting and working on ... That concerned me, we didn't play the way we had in friendlies."

Hernan Dario Gomez, the Colombia coach, said he would not let the big names in the Argentina team distract him.

"Out of respect, I base myself on an improvement in my team because if I start thinking about Argentina I'll go crazy. How do I mark Messi, [Carlos] Tevez, Aguero, [Angel] Di Maria?" he told a news conference at his team's practice.

"I don't know how to mark Messi. It's very difficult. What we do have are support lines, backup, work we can put into action." Meanwhile, Ecuador's Antonio Valencia has injured the same ankle which he had surgery on last year and will miss their second Copa America Group B match against Venezuela on Saturday, a team doctor confirmed. The Manchester United winger was lucky that the injury during Ecuador's 0-0 draw with Paraguay at the Colon stadium in Santa Fe on Sunday was not more serious, Tony Ocampo said. "[His opponent] stepped on his foot and very nearly fractured it again," Ocampo said, referring to the same left ankle Valencia dislocated and broke in September playing in the Champions League for United. "He has a bruise on the spot where he has a titanium plate, he couldn't put his weight on his foot, but the swelling has gone down about 40 per cent since Sunday. He won't make it to Saturday but he'll be there for Brazil." Ecuador face Brazil in Cordoba on July 13 in their final group match. Sunday's opening Group B matches between Brazil and Venezuela and Paraguay and Ecuador ended goalless. Edgar Barreto, the Paraguay midfielder, also hurt in Sunday's match in Santa Fe, will miss their clash with Brazil in Cordoba on Saturday also with a foot injury, his coach Gerardo Martino said. "We thought that with a week's rest he'd be able to carry on but it seems [the injury] is a little more complicated," Martino told a news conference, adding Victor Caceres could stand in for Barreto in the team. Barreto injured a metatarsal in his left foot, the same problem for which he had surgery before last year's World Cup finals. Caceres is recovering from a knock during their warm-up friendly against Chile in Asuncion 11 days ago but should be fit to start.