Match reports and highlights from Group A of the 2011 Copa América tournament.
Copa América 2011 kicked off with great fanfare on 1 July 2011 in La Plata. After the completion of the opening ceremony the first game featured the hosts Argentina against a Bolivia side thet had not won in 9 games and had not experienced victory outside their own borders for 19 games.
The game was a real disappointment for the star studded Argentine team, they failed to score in the first half and then went a goal behind after Edvaldo Rojas put the visitors ahead in the early minutes of the second half when his flick managed to dribble slowly past Ever Banega and goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Argentina huffed and puffed but couldn't find an equaliser until five minutes after the introduction of substitute Sergio Agüero, who scored with a thumping volley on 76'. Argentina didn't really come close to scoring a winner in the remaining minutes. A 1-1 draw against such humble opponents could only be seen as a disastrous start to the tournament for the hosts. As for Bolivia their Argentine manager Gustavo Quinteros can be rightly proud of his players, their hard work and tactical discipline earned them a share of the points in a game against the host nation and favourites.
In the next game Colombia recorded a narrow 1-0 victory against an inexperienced Costa Rica side. In my predictions for the tournament I expressed concerns that Costa Rica would take a mauling in this game, however they looked robust for most of the first half, even after Randall Brenes got himself sent off after 28 minutes. Adrian Ramos scored Colombia's goal seconds before half-time after a defence splitting pass from Fredy Guarín, one of the few times that Colombia managed to show up the inexperience of the Costa Rica back line.
Argentina's status as tournament favourites was further diminished after they could only manage a tepid 0-0 draw with Colombia. The second highly disappointing result for the home side has got Sergio Batista's many critics riled up and it is no surprise given the incoherent and inept display his team put on. Argentina looked out of ideas up front and relied on goalkeeper Sergio Romero to make a number of vital saves at the back. This criticism of Argentina shouldn't detract from Colombia's achievements so far, they were in far from scintilating form in their opening two games and this draw hardly compares to Colombia's finest ever result on Argentine soil back in 1993 but they have secured a couple of good results and put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the knockout stages of a senior international tournament for the first time since they reached the Copa América semi-finals in 2004 as defending champions.
After their solid and disciplined display to earn apoint against Argentina Bolivia crashed to a 0-2 defeat against a highly inexperienced Costa Rica side. This was Bolivia's 20th successive game without a win on foreign soil and leaves them needing nothing short of a win against Colombia in their final group game if they intend to reach the second round. The first half was fairly evenly matched with 19 year old striker Joel Campbell standing out with his pace and ball control he was involved in the best of Costa Rica's play for the remainder of the match. Costa Rica's Argentine coach Ricardo Lavolpe must have been glowing with pride as his young team took control of the game in the second half, especially given the fact that only two of his players were over the age of 22, (27 year old defenders Heiner Mora & Johnny Acosta). Josue Martínez opened the scoring in the 59th minute after fine work from Joel Campbell in the buildup. Campbell then hit the crossbar with a cracking free kick before Bolivia were reduced to 10 men in the 71st minute as Ronald Rivero was sent off for blocking a goalbound shot with his arm. Substitute Allen Guevara missed the penalty but Bolivia's indiscipline cost them again on 76' when Walter Flores was sent off for kicking out at Joel Campbell. In the 79th minute Campbell scored the goal that his performance so richly deserved. The result leaves hosts Argentina in third place and dependent on beating Costa Rica in their final match to ensure qualification.
Colombia secured their progression to the quarter-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Bolivia, Radamel Falcao scored both of their goals in the first half. The result ensured that Colombia topped the group and completed a group stage without conceding a single goal, the only other time they achieved this was in 2001 when they won the tournament.
Argentina went into their final group game with Costa Rica knowing that anything other than a win would lead to almost certain elimination. The hosts won the game 3-0, Sergio Agüero established a one goal lead just before half-time tapping in after a goalkeeper error. Agüero scored his second early in the second half after a perfectly weighted assist from Lionel Messi. Then in the 63rd minute Messi set up Ángel Di María for the third with an even better pass. The result meant that Argentina qualified automatically as group runner-up and that Costa Rica would have to wait to find out if they would qualify as one of the two best third placed teams, however with only three points and a goal difference of minus three, they were dependent on an unlikely sequence of results.