Lionel Messi: Argentina to 'Raise Their Heads' After Colombia Copa America Loss

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 16, 2019

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts during a Copa America Group B soccer match at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Saturday, June 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Argentina captain Lionel Messi has called on the team to "raise their heads" after their defeat to Colombia in the Copa America on Saturday.

The Albiceleste got off to a disappointing start in Brazil, as they were beaten 2-0 in their first game. They toiled for long spells before goals from Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata secured the three points for Colombia.

After their struggles at the FIFA World Cup last summer, it appears Argentina are set for another challenging major tournament. Following the game, Messi said the team must lift themselves, per Alex Shaw of Goal:

"There are positives to come out of this, we are ready to accept the challenge that we have. There is no time to complain, we have to look ahead, we have to raise our heads and continue, there's still a lot of the tournament left.

"They kept the ball well but didn't create clear opportunities, but when we took a step forwards in the second half they scored a goal. When we were playing at our best, they scored a great goal and it cost us."

Despite their poor performance, Argentina's destiny remains in their own hands, and they will still be favourites to beat Paraguay and Qatar in their remaining Group B games.

Still, this situation is an unusual one for the team, as defeats in their first game of this competition are rare:

OptaJavier @OptaJavier

0-2 - #Argentina🇦🇷 have lost a Copa America opening game for the third time ever, with this 0-2 against Colombia being their first loss by more than one goal in such games (2-3 against Uruguay in 1919, 1-2 against Bolivia in 1979). Stunned. #CopaAmerica https://t.co/53LHkEvVXA

Premier Sports shared the two Colombia goals, with Argentina's defending leaving much to be desired:

Watch Copa América 2019 live on Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

😍 Roger Martinez with a wonder strike for Colombia! What a goal! 🔥 #CopaAmerica https://t.co/ZKjeCge8H2

Watch Copa América 2019 live on Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

DUVÁN ZAPATA! 💢 He's only on the pitch 5 minutes! 👊 #CopaAmerica https://t.co/jrlt3ZWEpy

On the evidence of this encounter, manager Lionel Scaloni has been unable to find answers to the issues that have blighted this Argentina side for so long.

Colombia's goals illustrated the Albiceleste are still lacking in defensive cohesion and aggression. Further forward, the balance in midfield is skewed, and despite a raft of attacking talent in the squad, there's no fluidity about their work in the final third.

Additionally, the team appears to be devoid of belief. As former United States international Janusz Michallik noted, Argentina don't seem to know how to get back into matches after going behind:

Janusz Michallik @JanuszMichallik

When Argentina goes behind it’s over.

Football journalist Andy West commented on Messi's performance and the pressure he is under to thrive at international level:

Andy West @andywest01

Another international tournament, another poor Argentina team. Lacking cohesion, no control in midfield, defensively weak. Messi played neither particularly well nor particularly badly, but no doubt he'll get blamed again.

While Argentina should still have enough to get out of the group stage, barring some stunning individual displays from their skipper, it's hard to see them making a deep run at the tournament. There are too many problems lingering in the side that even Messi's brilliance can't cover up.

Messi is still on the hunt for his first major piece of silverware with Argentina. He's played in three major finals for his country—at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the last two Copas—but lost them all. Based on Saturday's showing, it would be a surprise if the Albiceleste made it that far again.


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