Argentina have a lot to prove in their 2019 Copa America quarter-final tie against Venezuela on Friday. La Albiceleste qualified for the last eight after an uninspiring group stage that yielded just four points.
While stars such as Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria have struggled to click, Venezuela have defied expectations. A well-organised team led by powerhouse Salomon Rondon surprised more than a few by taking five points in Group A, including earning a 0-0 draw against hosts Brazil.
Date: Friday, June 28
Time: 4 p.m. local time, 8 p.m. BST, 3 p.m. ET
TV Info: Premier Sports
Odds per Oddschecker.
It's a familiar story for Argentina, one about finding ways to get more from Messi. He scored just once during the group stage, but his nation's hopes of winning the tournament still rest on his shoulders.
Surrounding him with the right players is key. As is providing some continuity. WhoScored.com's Martin Laurence noted for the Guardian how "manager Lionel Scaloni started 16 players across Argentina's three group games and still doesn't seem to know his strongest team."
Giving time for a Messi and Sergio Aguero partnership to mature would help. It would also make a difference if the midfield provided more quality on the ball.
Quality shouldn't be in short supply thanks to Paris Saint-Germain's Leandro Paredes and Real Betis playmaker Giovani Lo Celso. Both impressed during the 2-0 win over Qatar that put La Albiceleste into the quarter-finals.
Venezuela won't be wowed by the star power of the opposition—not when they have recent experience of getting the better of Messi and Co., including a 3-1 win back in March. ESPN FC's Tim Vickery discussed that meeting: "The story of that match was Argentina's inability to defend—either against the power of centre-forward Salomon Rondon or against the pace of wingers John Murillo and Darwin Machis, with Josef Martinez in reserve."
Rondon is proving a handful for defences in Brazil. His strength, aggression in the air and ability to spin in behind will test an Argentina back line that was far from convincing in the group stage.
Expect another close game and an unconvincing performance from La Albiceleste, with Messi doing enough to see them through.