1. Lionel Messi recently spoke of his goal to win one trophy with Argentina before he retires, although his words feel like a wistful hope as if he understands the squad’s prime has passed and verbalizing that desire would unlock some outer energy to inspire his teammates. Manager Lionel Scaloni put their chances in simplest terms, saying that Argentina will do well if “Messi does what he does every Sunday.”
  2. Scaloni also joked that he would retire if Argentina won the Copa America.
  3. Colombia manager Carlos Quieroz provided his own form of levity before the match, saying that the opener against Argentina “is not life or death” and that “football will be the winner.”
  4. Speaking of the football, we were robbed of Juan Fernandro Quintero for this tournament after he tore his ACL earlier this season. As Colombia walk onto the field pre-match, we are reminded that James Rodriguez is still around, and still only 27 years old.
  5. As we kick off, it feels like Giovani Lo Celso is having a mini-moment coming off his season at Betis, and rumors of a move to bigger clubs.
  6. Argentina are attempting to play it out of the back early, though they can’t get by Colombia’s high press. Argentina may not have the on-ball quality in defense to play this style.
  7. Messi plays in Sergio Aguero off a free-kick, with David Ospina thwarting the goal-scoring situation with a wild, lunging tackle.
  8. Argentina’s strategy on defense is to kick Juan Cuadrado out of this match. Colombia lose Luis Muriel early due to injury, with Roger Martinez coming in his place at attack.
  9. Wilmer Barrios, who in another world without stadiums could be with Tottenham, has a lot of responsibility as the lone defensive midfielder for Colombia tracking Messi and Lo Celso - if Argentina can progress the ball that far up the field.
  10. The first yellow card comes out for Falcao for an elbow on Leandro Paredes. On the other end, Davidson Sanchez is getting the better of this matchup against Aguero.
  11. You can note Lo Celso’s influence in his ability to pick up the ball in half spaces so Messi doesn’t have to track back and can stay pushed further forward. Also, Angel Di Maria has done nothing through 30 minutes.
  12. Franco Armani almost tried to replicate Willy Caballero’s blunder in the World Cup passing Colombia right into his own net but save for a last ditch clearance. Argentina’s goalies are not good enough with their feet to build up from the back, which is playing right into Quieroz’s press.
  13. Add Cuadrado to the list of players who look much more effective playing for country than club. He is taking up an interesting position in the middle as opposed to a winger role, however.
  14. Cuadrado draws another yellow card from Argentina. Rodriguez is playing on the right wing and cutting in, with his movement getting himself open. Colombia have been effective in buildup play as this half has gone along, although that is partly due to Argentina’s inability to attack themselves.
  15. Half-time: much of the play for both teams is built up through the middle with Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes for Argentina, and through Cuadrado for Colombia. Falcao and Aguero will need to get on the ball in threatening areas this second half to liven up the match. The ESPN announcer is criticizing Argentina for failing to complete three passes in a row at halftime. It’s that level of frustration and negativity that follows this Argentine side due to expectations. Even if they were to win 3-0, it still wouldn’t be enough.
  16. Scaloni takes off Di Maria for Rodrigo de Paul at half time. That was a poor half for Di Maria, but again, is his ineffectiveness rooted in the style of the team? Is it the pressure?
  17. Argentina get a good chance ending with a Paredes shot a minute into the half through dispossessing Cuadrado with a high press.
  18. Renzo Saravia’s a yellow card for a tackle on Barrios after turning over the ball shows Argentina’s limitations in possession. Their difficulty in moving the ball around quickly highlights the importance of having fullbacks comfortable on the ball and able to play their way out through pressure. Colombia are focusing their entire press on trapping Argentina’s fullbacks when they have the ball, taking out their midfielders from the game. That inability to play out in possession has a knock-on effect where the rest of Argentina’s attackers are forced to move further back.
  19. Messi plays in a nice 1-2 with Aguero and gets his customary nutmeg. This is much, much better from Argentina. De Paul is having an immediate impact in place of Di Maria. His spacing out wide is crucial for giving Paredes, Messi, and Lo Celso room to operate. Colombia need to get on the ball and calm this down.
  20. There’s an entertaining sequence with Cuadrado and Messi going back and forth. Cuadrado first loses the ball and Messi run away from him into Colombia’s third. Cuadrado then kicks out at Messi on the other end, earning a yellow card and causing a scuffle.
  21. Martinez’s dribbling is causing Argentina’s defense a lot of problems. Both Queiroz and Scaloni subs are making an impact. Quieroz makes perhaps tactical move of the match in subbing off Cuadrado, who was veering on a red card.
  22. Ospina comes up with another huge save on Otamendi off a set piece. Messi blows the follow-up header wide. Argentina are playing with much more energy in winning the ball higher up the field.
  23. On the other end, Rodriguez has done nothing.
  24. Actually, scratch that. Against the run of play, Martinez scores the game’s first goal out of nothing. He takes in a crossfield ball from Rodriguez, runs at Saravia, cuts in, and blasts a shot past Armani. Saravia, on a yellow, wanted no part of a challenge.
  25. Argentina response by sending crosses into the 5-foot-8 Aguero, who’s on his own inside the box.
  26. Colombia are fouling Messi anytime he receives the ball in the middle of the field, as expected.
  27. Aguero is taken off for Matias Suarez. Aguero had some good moments with Messi in the second half, but in a recurring theme, that was nowhere near his Manchester City form.
  28. Speaking of replicating their club form, Duvan Zapata, who came on for Falcao, dribbled through Argentina’s midfield off a throw-in. He played a wide ball to Martinez, who played in an overlapping Jefferson Lerma. Zapata continued his run and got on the end of Lerma’s low cross. That’s a trademark sequence in open space from Zapata, and a reminder of his performance in leading Atalanta to a Champions League place. 2-0, this match is over.
  29. The match ends with one final elbow against Messi, earning Lerma a yellow card.
  30. Argentina played with much more energy and enthusiasm in the second half, particularly in winning the ball higher up the field. Yet again, there’s the constant theme of players rising to their national side or getting weighed down by the shirt. Only Lo Celso and de Paul rose to the occasion of this match, with de Paul especially impressive in spacing the wing. He must start against Paraguay on Wednesday.
  31. Colombia, on the other hand, were organized in their high press and direct in their attacking. I’d give Ospina the Man of the Match with his saves on Otamendi during a pivotal moment early in the second half when Colombia were under pressure. Cuadrado’s role in center midfield looked promising. Quieroz has a lot of depth up front to give new wrinkles to opposition late in matches.
  32. If you could reduce this match into a single theme, it’s of one side being energized by the occasion, and the other side going through the motions.