Argentina vs. Colombia: Biggest Takeaways from Scoreless Draw
Friday's 2014 World Cup qualifying match between Argentina and Colombia ended in a 0-0 draw, but there's still plenty to take away from what was an exciting match between two continental rivals.
Despite the lack of goals, tempers flared early and often between these two foes and they left us with plenty to talk about. A dual sending off in the 25th minute saw Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Zapata both receive red cards.
Argentina remains five points ahead of the second-place Colombia in the CONMEBOL table. The two teams will each walk away with one point each from the match, but what unfolded on the pitch will carry over to each squad's upcoming matches.
Let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from Friday's Argentina-Colombia showdown.
Messi Won't Always Save the Day
It was no surprise that Argentina star Lionel Messi wasn't in the starting XI as he continues to distance himself from a hamstring pull in April, but that didn't stop the Argentinians from turning to him in the last half hour with the game on the line.
Unfortunately for Messi's side, it didn't pay off with a game-winner.
Don't get me wrong, it's awfully tough to make an impact on the match when both sides are reduced to 10 men and you're thrown into the fire awfully late in the match. But it was certainly a wake-up call for Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella.
Having arguably the greatest player in the world on your team can be a blessing and a curse. While you almost always have the most talented soccer player on the pitch, the game-plan can become a bit dependent if you're turning to that guy late in matches and he doesn't deliver.
Let's not put the blame for this draw on Messi–players like Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria had even more time to impact the match. But it should show Argentina that they can't expect everything to become fixed by throwing Messi into a match.
Radamel Falcao Struggles Against Top Competition
There wasn't a player in Friday's match that was more invisible than Colombian striker Radamel Falcao. But when that same player is supposed to carry your team, there's a big issue.
Falcao struggled all match to get by Argentina's back line of defense, not finding the ball on scoring chances seemingly at all. Any chance Colombia had wasn't run through the striker, who is usually the focal point of their attack.
After joining Monaco last week in huge transfer news (per BBC Sport), Falcao really laid an egg with a chance to show his world-class talent against one of the world's top teams.
Despite the poor performance, Falcao has still done enough to help put Colombia in a great spot to get to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. But if he doesn't step up and prove again that he is able to put this team on his back against great teams, they won't get very far at all.
Ezequiel Garay is a Star
If you're wondering who had by far the biggest role in slowing down Falcao's attack Friday, look no further than Ezequial Garay.
Garay uses his 6'4" frame to block out opposing strikers, and showcases his world-class talent on a regular basis. It's about time the 26-year-old started receiving praise in the transfer market, because he's been leading Argentina's defense for some time.
Sure, you might hear about Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain as the biggest impact players on this Argentina team. But without Garay, the defensive unit suddenly would lose a whole lot of direction and expertise.
Both Teams Are Relatively Safe
Despite neither team picking up three points in the contest, it seems both Argentina and Colombia are generally safe when it comes to World Cup qualifying.
Argentina leads the CONMEBOL group with 25 points, while Colombia sits behind them in second place with 20 points and five points ahead of the fifth-place playoff match.
Colombia could still be knocked out, but it would take a couple of tough losses. With Peru coming up, who has just 11 points, it's not looking like Colombia will fold their great position.
Argentina is firmly in the driver's seat, and if they can continue to rack up draws and wins, they'll be cruising to World Cup qualification.
Both of these teams have their own issues that need to be worked out before World Cup time, but there's little doubt that each squad will be heading to Brazil next summer.
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