Football: Must-win game for angry Messi & Co

Argentinian star Lionel Messi trying to get past Brazil's Neymar, his Barcelona club mate, during their World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte last Thursday. Brazil won 3-0 to heap more pressure on their South American rivals, and anything less than a
Argentinian star Lionel Messi trying to get past Brazil's Neymar, his Barcelona club mate, during their World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte last Thursday. Brazil won 3-0 to heap more pressure on their South American rivals, and anything less than a win for the Albiceleste today will make their bid to reach the Finals in Russia an uphill task.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Despite rough flight, Argentina have to take risks against Colombia to get back on track

BUENOS AIRES • Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza has urged his side to "take risks" and claim victory in their must-win World Cup football qualifier against Colombia today "with no excuses", despite a bout of illness which hit several players en route to the match venue.

Talisman Lionel Messi reportedly used expletives to the Argentinian media to highlight his anger after the Albiceleste lost 0-3 to Brazil last week.

That left them in sixth place on 16 points in the South American World Cup group - which Brazil lead on 24 points - with only four nations going through automatically. The fifth-placed team will take part in a play-off against a team from the Oceania zone.

The Argentinians are only one point behind fifth-placed Chile, but anything but a win over third- placed 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," he said.

WE'RE UP TO THE TASK

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.

JOSE PEKERMAN, Colombia's coach, on the threat from his native Argentina, who are struggling in sixth place after a 3-0 thrashing from Brazil last week.

"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 added that the Argentinian team were 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," he said.

Argentina have injury doubts over Gonzalo Higuain, Gabriel Mercado and Ever Banega.

To make matters worse, several players - including Messi - took ill on Monday while enduring a bumpy flight from Buenos Aires to San Juan for the match.

The Barcelona forward and other unnamed players received treatment after heavy turbulence prompted them to vomit, according to Argentinian radio show La Red.

However, the bout of illness will likely not stop the affected players from playing in the crucial game.

Colombia go into the match with 18 points following a goal-less draw with Chile last week.

Key defenders Oscar Murillo and Yerry Mina are injured, but coach Jose Pekerman, who led his native Argentina at the 2006 World Cup Finals, still has a strong team at his disposal.

"The 3-0 defeat by Brazil will make them hungrier 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."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ARGENTINA V COLOMBIA
Singtel Ch109, 7.25am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Must-win game for angry Messi & Co'. Print Edition | Subscribe