Tough test for misfiring Argentina

Tough test for misfiring Argentina

Football: South American giants visit dangerous

They have learned a harsh lesson from a last-minute arrival in Venezuela last month where they were upset 1-0, Argentina's first ever defeat by the baseball-mad country 5,000 km to the north.

What was not in coach Alejandro Sabella's plans before the Bolivia match on Friday was a serious rethink of his line-up and tactics to face Colombia in Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast.

Sabella is pondering his choices in defence after Martin Demichelis was slow to control an easy ball and striker Marcelo Martins robbed him, turned and shot past Sergio Romero to put Bolivia ahead. He knows former captain Javier Mascherano, a tactically disciplined player and good reader of the game, has been filling in well as a central defender at Barcelona and may use him in the middle of a back three.

He also needs to continue working on his midfield formation to bring out the best in Lionel Messi, who was marked into submission by the packed Bolivia defence, and it does not help being deprived of an injured Angel Di Maria.

Two home games on the trot in the marathon, nine-nation, 18-match qualifying series is a rarity and it was Colombia's turn to benefit from the calendar this month.

But Venezuela snatched a surprise late equaliser in Barranquilla on Friday for a 1-1 draw as Colombia's defence lost concentration and committed an error similar to Argentina's against Bolivia in Buenos Aires. Uruguay, top of the standings with seven points from three matches after they crushed Chile 4-0 in Montevideo with all four goals scored by Luis Suarez, have a bye on Tuesday when they meet Italy in a friendly in Rome.

Argentina and Colombia are among four teams with four points. The others are Paraguay, who visit a Chile side nursing their bruised pride at the Nacional in Santiago, and Venezuela, who are at home to Bolivia at the Polideportivo in San Cristobal.

Peru and Ecuador, who have three points apiece, meet at high altitude in Quito, an advantage for the Ecuadoreans.

Better pitch

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo believes his side's bold performance on a difficult pitch in Zenica last week will inspire them to overpower Bosnia at home on Tuesday and qualify for Euro 2012.

Friday's scoreless draw left the two-legged playoff wide open but the Portuguese are confident they will make the most of home advantage after the Bilino Polje stadium's swampy pitch stopped them converting their control of the match into a win.