After tinkering, Messi and Argentina are reborn

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After tinkering, Messi and Argentina are reborn


Sergio Aguero, center, celebrates his first goal against Costa Rica with teammates Angel di Maria, left, and Lionel Messi during the Copa America tournament in Cordoba, Argentina, Monday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

BUENOS AIRES - What a difference a day makes. Or rather, what a difference a tactical overhaul makes, as Argentina showed in ripping Costa Rica to shreds 3-0 to reach the Copa America quarterfinals.

Released from being a “number nine,” Lionel Messi reveled in being what he really is - namely, a striker who likes to attack from deep, leaving real center forwards in front of him.

Argentina is, as coaches and players past and present have lined up to hammer home in recent days, not Barcelona.

But as Diego Maradona pointed out before the Costa Rica game, that fact - and draws with Bolivia and Colombia - do not mean that Messi is not the greatest footballer on the planet.

With Barcelona, he is a master at scoring goals at a phenomenal rate - most of them spectacular.

But he is also a master creator and coach Sergio Batista allowed him to slip into that role on Monday as scoring duties were shared between two-goal star Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria.

Batista bit the bullet, dropping the popular Carlos Tevez and putting Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain up front, which allowed Messi to roam where he wanted, waving his wand as the conductor of an orchestra which, as if by magic, is suddenly playing in tune.

Messi simply excelled on Monday, leading the dazed Costa Ricans a merry dance, setting up two goals and countless other chances which, had Higuain in particular not been so profligate in his finishing, could have produced a score approaching double figures.

Messi said the woes of the past week, which had seen fans turn on the side, were forgotten.

“Now another Copa is starting,” said Messi. “I want to thank people for getting behind us tonight - we had missed such affection.

“I want to thank the people of Cordoba for their backing for me and for everybody,” he added in pointed allusion to the incessant and occasionally brutal criticism of the squad since the tournament began.

Batista was able to pronounce himself “very satisfied” as he greeted reporters after the game.

“We created a host of chances - which had not been the case earlier,” he acknowledged. “We were full of confidence and this produced a strong showing against Costa Rica.”

It was almost as if the Argentines had delved back into their history of 30 years earlier, when Mario Kempes, a son of Cordoba, was knocking in the goals on the way to World Cup glory in 1978.

Fittingly, Kempes was in the 54,000 crowd in the stadium which bears his name.

Batista noted that Monday’s match had seen the Argentines marry two qualities that they and Brazil possess in spades - yet often fail to blend properly.

“We had individuals playing at the highest level but also a collective engagement, which at times was very good,” Batista said.

“The team showed a lot of character to do that after two games where things did not quite work so well. But these players always show the right attitude.”

While eulogizing the group Batista could not resist singling out the sheer brilliance of Messi.

“Today Messi shone - so did the team. Leo changed position a bit and was more free to receive the ball.”

When the man from Rosario got it - which was often - the destruction he wrought was something special to behold.


한글 관련 기사 [조이뉴스24]

아르헨티나, ‘살아난 메시’ 앞세워 코파 아메리카 8강행

잠자고 있던 아르헨티나가 깨어났다. 리오넬 메시도 살아났다.

아르헨티나가 12일 오전(한국시간) 아르헨티나의 코르도바 마리오 켐페스 스타디움에서 열린 `2011 코파아메리카` 조별리그 A조 3차전 코스타리카전에서 세르히오 아게로의 두 골을 앞세워 3-0으로 이겼다.

1승2무를 기록한 아르헨티나는 콜롬비아에 이어 조2위로 8강에 올랐다. 만약 패했다면 자국에서 개최하는 대회 탈락이라는 망신을 당할 수 있었다. 앞선 경기서 아르헨티나는 볼리비아와 1-1, 콜롬비아와 0-0으로 비겨 답답함은 계속됐다. 해결사 메시에 대한 비난 여론도 상당했다.

아르헨티나는 원톱에 곤살로 이과인을 배치하고 좌우에 아게로와 앙헬 디 마리아를 포진시켰다. 지난 두 경기에서 측면에 서 있던 메시는 공격형 미드필더로 나서 볼 배급에 치중했다.

메시는 자유롭게 움직이며 코스타리카 수비진의 혼을 뺐다. 그러나 이과인과 아게로가 메시의 패스를 받아 허공으로 슈팅하며 쉽게 골을 얻어내지 못했다.

메시는 전반 12분 오른쪽 측면에서 날카로운 프리킥을 보여줬지만 빗나갔다. 이후 코스타리카는 극단적인 수비로 일관하며 아르헨티나의 공격에 대응했다. 23분 모라의 슈팅이 코스타리카의 전반 유일한 공격이었다.

코스타리카의 두꺼운 수비는 45분에서야 깨졌다. 45분 가고의 슈팅이 골키퍼에 맞고 흘러나오자 아게로가 잡아 왼발로 골망을 갈랐다.

전반 아르헨타는 11개의 슈팅을 시도해 6개의 유효슈팅을 기록했다. 반면, 코스타리카는 단 1개의 슈팅을 기록하는 등 경기력이 극명하게 엇갈렸다.

후반에도 강력한 창을 앞세운 아르헨타나는 7분 메시의 발에서 비롯돼 두 번째 골이 터졌다. 아게로가 전방으로 뛰어들어가는 것을 본 메시가 날카롭게 침투패스를 했고 그대로 골로 연결됐다. 바르셀로나에서 메시가 보여주던 패스가 대표팀에서도 통한 것이다.

기세가 오른 아르헨티나는 18분 메시가 또 한 번 미드필드 중앙에서 스루 패스를 시도했고 뛰어 들어가던 디 마리아가 볼을 잡아 왼발로 골망을 흔들며 승리로 마무리했다. 아르헨티나는 콜롬비아에 이어 조2위로 8강행을 확정했다.

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