Bolivia v Argentina: La Albiceleste target top spot - but does Messi get a rest?

By Sports Desk June 27, 2021

Argentina can clinch top spot in Group A as they aim to maintain their unbeaten run under Lionel Scaloni against a Bolivia side already certain of an early Copa America exit.

The format of the 2021 tournament means just one team from each section misses out on the last eight, though the final matches are still pivotal as nations jostle for positions in the final standings.

Bolivia's exit was confirmed with a 2-0 reverse against Uruguay last time out, another blank in front of goal meaning Cesar Farias' side have managed to score just once in three outings so far.

Argentina have also found it tough going in attack, despite the presence of the talismanic Lionel Messi. Following a 1-1 draw with Chile in their opener, they have recorded back-to-back 1-0 triumphs over Uruguay and Paraguay.

Those results mean head coach Scaloni has not seen his team lose in his previous 16 games. His last defeat in the job came in the previous edition of the Copa America, as they were knocked out by rivals Brazil in the 2019 semi-finals.

A potential rematch appears unlikely until the final this time around, with Brazil winning Group B. Argentina know a victory in Cuiaba will be enough for them to do the same ahead of the quarter-finals.

Scaloni has a decision to make over whether to rest Messi, who has played every minute in the competition so far.

While the Barcelona superstar just recently turned 34, he may want to be involved from the start as he looks to win his 148th international cap, which would move him out of a tie with Javier Mascherano to sit alone at the top of the list for Argentina appearances.

Those in danger of receiving a suspension with another yellow card on Monday are likely to be left out, among them Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes and Giovanni Lo Celso.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Alejandro Gomez

'Papu' Gomez arrived late to international football but helped make up for lost time in his previous outing with his first goal in a competitive fixture for Argentina. He struck in the 10th minute against Paraguay, while he also completed 88.2 per cent of his attempted passes in the opposition half before being substituted. Did he do enough to keep his place, though?

Bolivia - Carlos Lampe

Goalkeeper Lampe has been a rare positive for his team at the Copa America, making the most saves per game (eight) among those to have played in two or more fixtures. Even with Argentina potentially resting players, Bolivia's last line of defence may well be busy again as they prepare to say farewell to this year's Copa.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the 10th meeting in the Copa America at a neutral venue, with Argentina never previously losing in such contests (W9 D1). However, Bolivia have won twice when serving as competition hosts, in 1963 and 1979.

- Scaloni is unbeaten in his last 16 managerial games in all competitions, his best run since taking charge of Argentina (W9 D7).

- After five unbeaten games in the Copa America with Venezuela, Cesar Farias has lost the last four; one for Venezuela (semi-final in 2011) and three for Bolivia (all this year).

- Argentina are the team with the most goals scored in the first 15 minutes of their games (two), with all of their goals scored in the first half of games (three, same as Ecuador).

Related items

  • Hungary forward Varga undergoes successful surgery after worrying injury Hungary forward Varga undergoes successful surgery after worrying injury

    Barnabas Varga has undergone successful surgery and will leave hospital on Wednesday, after suffering a facial fracture during Hungary's dramatic 1-0 win over Scotland at Euro 2024.

    The forward required urgent medical attention after colliding with Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn in the 68th minute of the crucial Group A encounter in Munich on Sunday.

    There was a lengthy stoppage in play, with Varga's team-mates forming a protective wall around him for privacy during treatment.

    The 29-year-old left the field on a stretcher and was taken to hospital, but was in a stable condition before his surgery.

    A statement from the Hungarian Football Federation read: "According to the information of the institution's doctors specialising in facial injuries, the intervention was uncomplicated, so the attacker can leave the hospital on Wednesday."

    Varga's wife Laura Skrapits also shared a picture on Instagram, accompanied by the message: "Thank you for the kind, supportive messages. Barni is over the surgery. A little rest awaits him, but everything will be fine."

    Kevin Csoboth's 100th-minute strike secured third place for Hungary in Group A, boosting their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.

    The team dedicated their victory to Varga, holding aloft his number 19 jersey as they saluted their supporters.

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Football, eh? Italy snatch a last-16 place and England debate rolls on Euro 2024 social round-up: Football, eh? Italy snatch a last-16 place and England debate rolls on

    Gary Lineker has been at the centre of something of a storm when it comes to England at Euro 2024, and that story was plastered over social media on Monday.

    Then, the football took control, with Spain keeping up their winning run and Italy salvaging a draw against Croatia to claim a spot in the last 16.

    Here, we unpack the best of the day's social media clips from the tournament in Germany.

     

    Football, eh?

    Football... It's crazy! 

    With a minute to go, Italy - the holders - were on the brink of a possible exit, with Croatia leading 1-0 in Leipzig.

    Yet within 30 seconds, Mattia Zaccagni's maiden Azzurri goal had sent Italy through into the last 16, and it's Croatia who are on the verge of an early departure.

    Lineker responds

    There was a lot left to be desired following England's performance in their 1-1 draw with Denmark, but it is the post-match criticism that has since drawn the most attention.

    In particular, Lineker's comments were brought to the attention of Harry Kane in a recent press conference, with the England captain urging the pundits to support the squad.

    With the ball back in Lineker's court, he - along with fellow pundit Alan Shearer - had his say on the ongoing debate.

    Ferdinand chips into pundit debate

    Rio Ferdinand has done his fair share of punditry, and the former England defender had his say on the Lineker debate.

    Ferdinand said the England players shouldn't expect pundits to act as "cheerleaders" when the team aren't performing.

    Strike a pose

    With qualification for the knockout stages already complete, Portugal do not have to worry about any pressure going into their final match against Georgia.

    And while taking some time off during training, Joao Felix decided to try his hand at something a little different.

    We may even see some of his photos popping up on Portugal's official X account in the coming days.

    A family affair

    Among the travelling Spanish fans are a family of nine, who have made a 2000km journey to watch their nation at the tournament.

    After finally reaching their destination, they got to meet Ferran Torres, Marc Cucurella and Dani Vivian.

    Torres subsequently starred for Spain as La Roja stayed perfect in Group B by beating Albania, with the Barcelona forward scoring the only goal of the game.

    French cuisine 

    Ever wondered what an international footballer does at lunchtime?

    Well, fortunately for you, the French team allowed their social admins into the inner sanctum.

    Scholes backs Mainoo for big things

    More punditry relating to England, and this time it was Paul Scholes who had his say.

    Scholes thinks Kobbie Mainoo, who has had an impressive season with Manchester United, could be the player to pull the strings in midfield for the Three Lions.

    Vertonghen sees into the future

    Jan Vertonghen is playing in his sixth major tournament for Belgium, and his third Euros.

    Sitting down at Belgium's 'The Basecamp', the veteran defender was given a glimpse of what he will look like if he chooses to forgo retirement and keep playing with the help of AI.

    While Vertonghen was seemingly happy with the results, Maxim De Cuyper was not so impressed.

    The grind never stops

    Cristiano Ronaldo will make his 50th appearance at a major tournament the next time he features at Euro 2024.

    And even though Portugal are already through, the work on the training field never stops for the 39-year-old...

  • Croatia 1-1 Italy: Modric makes Euros history but last-gasp stunner sends Azzurri through Croatia 1-1 Italy: Modric makes Euros history but last-gasp stunner sends Azzurri through

    Luka Modric's history-making goal for Croatia proved fruitless as Mattia Zaccagni's last-gasp screamer sent Italy through into the last 16 of Euro 2024 after a 1-1 draw.

    Modric became the oldest player to score at the Euros when he slammed in from close range in the 55th minute - just 33 seconds after missing a penalty - and Croatia seemed all set to progress in second place from Group B, but Italy substitute Zaccagni had other ideas.

    With a sumptuous side-footed finish deep into the final throngs of stoppage time, Zaccagni claimed a point for the Azzurri, ensuring the holders will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday.

    Croatia, on the other hand, with just two points from their three matches, seem destined to miss out on one of the best third-placed finishes.

    Zlatko Dalic's team completed 329 passes in the first half – only against Scotland in June 2021 (337) have they completed more passes in a half at the Euros – but bar Luka Sucic's fizzing effort, they hardly tested Gianluigi Donnarumma.

    Indeed, Dominik Livakovic was the busier of the two goalkeepers, and he had to be at his best to deny Alessandro Bastoni an opener.

    Yet, the pace swiftly picked up in a frantic couple of minutes after the break, when Italy substitute Davide Frattesi was penalised for handball following a VAR review.

    After seeing his penalty saved by Donnarumma, Modric stayed alive to lash home on the rebound when a cross was worked back into the area, with Italy's goalkeeper having excellently denied Ante Budimir.

    Bastoni should have restored parity just after the hour, only for the defender to head over after meeting a corner unmarked.

    Gianluca Scamacca failed to meet Federico Chiesa's teasing cross as Croatia looked all set to head through, but there was to be one last twist.

    Having come on in the 81st minute, Zaccagni showed great composure to produce a piece of magic and send the holders through.

    A fond farewell?

    That might well be it for Modric, not just at the European Championship but at major tournaments as a whole. If it is the way he goes out, after his 16th appearance at the Euros, then he has done himself proud.

    At 38, he made history, etching his name into the Euros record books. 

    By the time he left the pitch in the 80th minute, Modric had played a team-leading 23 passes into the final third and won possession on six occasions, another team-high. 

    He looked distraught at the end, and at 38, surely that is the end for him at the European Championships, and maybe even major tournament football?

    Donnarumma pulls through

    Donnarumma was the star of the show for Italy at Wembley three years ago, with his saves in the shootout win over England.

    The three seasons that have followed have not been the best for the former Milan goalkeeper, who has made some high-profile errors for Paris Saint-Germain.

    Yet, he was on excellent form in Leipzig, making that exceptional penalty save and then an even more impressive stop to thwart Budimir, only to see Modric pick up the pieces when no defender reacted.

    Having become the youngest goalkeeper to play 10 matches at the Euros in the history of the competition (aged 25 years and 120 days), Donnarumma did not deserve to be on the losing side, and Zaccagni's moment of brilliance ensured that was not to be the case.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.