Buenos Aires: Lionel Messi and Argentina’s stars will have to take “risks” to beat Colombia and keep their World Cup hopes alive, coach Edgardo Bauza said ahead of their must-win clash on Tuesday.
Messi used expletives to Argentinian media to highlight his anger after the Albiceleste lost 3-0 to Brazil last week. That left them in sixth place in the South American World Cup group — and only four go through automatically.
So far, they are only one point behind fifth place Chile, but anything but a win over Colombia could see a critical gap open up.
Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano said after the Brazil defeat that Argentina had hit “rock bottom”.
With the pressure on him and the team, Bauza said it was good for Mascherano to show his anger, and he was still confident of reaching the 2018 finals in Russia.
“We need the team to improve in terms of production and this means they will have to impose themselves,” Bauza said after the final training session Sunday.
“Colombia have big players, individuals with quality, and we have worked on countering that. We need to win and we need to take risks.”
Bauza said the Argentinian team was still smarting from the Brazil defeat. And the two-time World Cup winners must rebound. “There has to be a good match and we must win, no excuses. There is a strong desire in the squad.”
Argentina had injury doubts over Gonzalo Higuain, Gabriel Mercado and Ever Banega. The coach said all players were ready to play but none was confirmed.
While admitting Argentina’s predicament was “complicated” he was not worried about his own future and harked back to his troubles when in charge at LDU Quito in Ecuador.
“In Quito, I was taken out of the stadium in a truck because they wanted to lynch me. In four months we were the champions of South America,” he said. Quito won the Copa Libertadores in 2008.
Colombia go into the match third with 18 points following a goalless draw with Chile last week — still far from assuring qualification.
Key defenders Oscar Murillo and Yerry Mina are injured. But coach Jose Pekerman, who led his native Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, still has a strong team for the clash in San Juan, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Buenos Aires.
“The 3-0 defeat to Brazil will make them more hungry to win but we know we need points too,” said winger Juan Cuadrado.
“We must be strong in midfield and not give them any space because that is where they are skilful and have players who make the difference.”
South America has four automatic qualifying spots for Russia 2018. The fifth-placed team will take part in a playoff against a team from the Oceania zone.