With something of an absentee crisis bedevilling them, Argentina prepare for battle with Colombia in World Cup 2022 Qualifying in the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes on Tuesday.
The Copa America champions were forced to work for their 2-1 victory over Chile on Friday night, while the visitors’ qualification hopes took another hit in a 1-0 loss to Peru.
As Lionel Messi’s absence and a cluster of COVID-19 cases threatened to derail Argentina’s preparations for their first fixtures of 2022, Lionel Scaloni’s men claimed yet another narrow win in World Cup Qualifying to see off Chile last time out.
Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez netted either side of Ben Brereton Diaz’s header to hand the already-qualified Albiceleste a confidence-boosting three points, with the two-time World Cup winners now simply focused on trying to pip Brazil to top spot in the section.
Scaloni’s men have already assured themselves of a place in Qatar with 32 points to their name as they sit second in the table – still four adrift of runaway leaders Brazil – and the unbeaten streak is on the line here.
Argentina’s ranks will be depleted by a whopping four suspensions in the battle with Colombia, but reports of players recovering from injury and COVID-19 is a welcome boost for Scaloni, who ought to return to the touchline himself after battling off his own infection.
The win over Chile marked Argentina’s 28th unbeaten game in a row across all competitions since defeat to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America, and four clean sheets from their last four Qualifying games at home spells trouble for a shot-shy Colombia.At this point in World Cup Qualifying, Colombia would have expected to be holding their place in the top four while Peru battle on the fringes of qualification, but in a reversal of fortunes, La Tricolor’s Qatar hopes slimmed even further on matchday 15.
While Reinaldo Rueda’s men struggled for attacking inspiration, Peru took advantage with a priceless 85th-minute winner from substitute Edison Flores to boost their top-four bid at the expense of Colombia’s, whose World Cup destiny is out of their own hands.
The world’s 16th-ranked nation now find themselves sixth in the section – posting a worrying three wins from their 15 games so far – but they are still within touching distance of Uruguay in the playoff place and four behind Peru in the final automatic qualification spot.
A six-game streak without a win in World Cup Qualifying is alarming in itself, but a nation once famed for the attacking prowess of Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez have now gone six games without a goal in the section, and a clinical edge is a must if Rueda’s side are to make a late charge for the top-four spots.
Liverpool-bound Luis Diaz will certainly be out to prove a point amid his side’s drought, and Colombia did find the back of the net twice in a 2-2 draw with Argentina earlier in Qualifying, but the Albiceleste prevailed on penalties in the Copa America four weeks later.
Argentina World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Colombia World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Colombia form (all competitions):
We say: Argentina 3-1 Colombia
A significantly-altered Argentina defence presents Colombia with a prime opportunity to finally make the net ripple, but any joy on Tuesday is likely to end there for Rueda’s side.
Colombia have far more on the line than Scaloni’s suspension-hit outfit this week, but with Argentina possessing a wealth of attacking talent as ever, we can only back a resounding home win