Argentina draw little comfort

Argentina's Ezequiel Lavezzi (far left) celebrating his goal in front of Brazil defender David Luiz. Without a win in the first three qualifiers, Argentina must play catch-up in the tie against Colombia.
Argentina's Ezequiel Lavezzi (left) celebrating his goal in front of Brazil defender David Luiz. Without a win in the first three qualifiers, Argentina must play catch-up in the tie against Colombia.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Heavyweights in worst start in Cup qualifying, with only two points after 1-1 draw with Brazil

BUENOS AIRES • Three matches into their South American World Cup qualifying campaign and heavyweights Argentina are already in must-win territory.

No South American nation have gone to the World Cup after failing to triumph in any of their opening three qualifiers, a position Argentina find themselves in after Friday's 1-1 draw with fierce rivals Brazil.

It is no wonder that Argentina manager Gerardo Martino labelled his side's qualifier at Colombia next week as a do-or-die encounter.

"It was a positive display but it wasn't positive when it came to points," he said.

On Friday, Argentina were dominant in Buenos Aires but could find the net only once through Ezequiel Lavezzi before Lucas Lima's second-half equaliser.

"They were effective tonight and we weren't. We have to win in Colombia," admitted Martino.

The result reduced the two-time champions to their worst start in World Cup qualifying, with just two points from a possible nine.

Argentina are eighth in the 10-team South American table and will meet an impressive Colombia side who sit in sixth after a 1-1 draw at Copa America champions Chile.

The top four teams qualify automatically and the fifth-placed side go into a play-off.

Captain Javier Mascherano agreed with the manager and said they were unlucky not to beat Brazil. "We don't like making excuses," he said of the game in which Argentina were missing strikers Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. "We played a serious game and, unfortunately, they drew level with one isolated move."

Brazil manager Dunga was more upbeat, particularly about his side's second-half display, with substitute Douglas Costa's dynamism and speed shaking the side up when he came on.

Dunga, however, was disappointed that Brazil did not take advantage of a nervous atmosphere at the Monumental stadium.

"I don't know if you noticed but it didn't seem like an Argentine stadium. The fans were tense, it was silent and we weren't able to take advantage of that in the first half," he said after watching his side finish with 10 men.

Defender David Luiz was dismissed in the 88th minute.

"We weren't brilliant technically (in the second period) but we were much better in terms of determination and fight," added Dunga.

"Getting a point against Argentina was a good result."

He was cool about the return of Neymar, who was quiet after returning from a four-game suspension. The Barcelona striker was largely anonymous and his threat was limited to a couple of long-range shots.

"He played for the team and maybe he didn't come up with some of the moves we are used to seeing him do at Barcelona, thanks to the tight marking of the Argentine defenders," Dunga said.

"We play every two months and we have one day to train so that makes it hard for him to establish an understanding with his teammates.

"I am sure he'll be better in the next game."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'ARGENTINA DRAW LITTLE COMFORT'. Print Edition | Subscribe