Messi shackled in Lima

2012-09-12 10:10
Lionel Messi (AFP)

Buenos Aires - Lionel Messi's recent goal spree came to an abrupt halt in Argentina's uninspiring 1-1 draw against Peru as Colombia came out on top in the latest round of South American World Cup qualifiers that concluded on Tuesday.

Argentina lead the nine-nation group ahead of Colombia and Ecuador but only three points separate the top six teams with the series set to reach its halfway mark next month.

Peru laid bare the failings in Argentina's rearguard that their brilliant forwards often disguise in tricky conditions at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.

Gonzalo Higuain's fine equaliser was one of the few Argentina highlights in a performance that also featured Sergio Romero's early penalty save from Claudio Pizarro.

Messi was almost unrecognisable as the world's best player, softened by a series of early fouls but not subjected to the aggressive man-marking Diego Maradona endured in a 1-0 defeat in the Peru capital 27 years ago.

He was kept in check by Peru's heavily populated midfield, which still found space to carry danger to Argentina with defender Carlos Zambrano scoring in the 22nd minute and Luis Ramirez hitting the post in the second half.

"The pitch didn't help, you needed one or two touches more to control the ball. We left the pitch angry because we couldn't play our game but an away draw is good," Messi, who had scored 10 goals in his last six internationals, told reporters.

"We're bitter at having only seven points when we deserve a few more," said Peru's Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian, who is attempting lead the team to the finals for the first time since 1982.

"Peru didn't surprise me. Nowadays, it's always tough, always very even," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella of the result and the tight standings.

Argentina have 14 points, Colombia and Ecuador 13, Uruguay and Chile 12 and Venezuela, looking to reach their first finals, 11.

At the end of the marathon campaign, the top four will qualify for the 2014 finals and the fifth-placed team plays off against an Asian nation for a berth in Brazil.

Colombia, with strikers Radamel Falcao and Teo Gutierrez scoring three goals apiece in two matches, followed their 4-0 rout of Uruguay on Friday with Tuesday's 3-1 away victory over an accomplished Chile side in Santiago.

"The team were confident despite falling behind in the first half," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said.

"This (confidence) has been very positive for us and confirms the team has potential. This is one of the hardest matches you'll get in the qualifiers."

Charged with putting Colombia back on track after a poor start by his sacked predecessor Leonel Alvarez, the Argentine said the key had been to spend the FIFA international date in August practising rather than playing a friendly.

"This double (qualifying) fixture has helped us a lot and I think we're now enjoying the fruits of our work but it was painful when (critics) didn't understand our work," he said.

Ecuador, trained by former Honduras World Cup coach Reinaldo Rueda, picked up a good point with a 1-1 draw at Uruguay, who were thrashed by Colombia in Barranquilla on Friday.

"Uruguay had come from a tough time and were going to put their best on the pitch, but we were orderly, made the most of the lead (Felipe Caicedo's eighth-minute penalty) and had good control of the game (in the first half)," Rueda said.

His opposite number Oscar Tabarez, whose side equalised through Edinson Cavani, said: "We recovered the intensity customary in this team's game.

"We're going through a lean spell and we'll see how we overcome it in a month's time. This is a long haul. There are teams who were far behind and have recovered in the last two fixtures. I think we can also do that in the coming matches."

The team that came off worst were Paraguay, accustomed to doing well enough to have reached four successive finals but now rooted to the bottom of the standings after losing to Argentina and then 2-0 to Venezuela in Asuncion on Tuesday.

Read more on:    lionel messi  |  soccer


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
  • Blitz
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
  • SS1
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
  • SS2
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
  • SS3
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


30 of the world's greatest golfers will be heading to the Gary Player Country Club for this year's Nedbank Golf Challenge - now in its 35th year. For all the latest news, player profiles, hole-by-hole descriptions and past winners, be sure to check out Sport24's dedicated section.

Latest blogs

Who was the best summer signing in the EPL?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.