Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi advanced to the semi-finals of the Copa America after a thrilling scoreless draw with Colombia that was finally settled with penalty kicks. Pastore started for Argentina and was taken off in the 77th minute after a very bright performance. Pocho, meanwhile, made his first appearance in the competition as an 87th minute substitute, and confidently slotted home a penalty after both periods of extra time were played.
Muted somewhat in the second half, Pastore’s bright showing comes as no surprise in what has been an extremely successful tournament for the Paris Saint-Germain player. His creative flair in the midfield is its own gift, particularly with Lionel Messi drawing fouls throughout the match, but he’s also developed his movement off the ball. Where previous Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella preferred workmanlike roles in the midfield—and subsequently froze El Flaco out of the team—current manager Tata Martino allows for more of the flair and luxury that Argentina’s roster is capable of.
Pastore nearly nets his first of the tournament
Working to remain in the Argentina first team, Pastore, who recorded only 1.6 tackles per 90 minutes in last year’s Champions League campaign, has nearly doubled his defensive tackles for his country. His current tackles/game ratio in the tournament stands at 2.8, even an improvement over his 2.0 in Ligue 1 play. Combine that with his 2.3 key passes per game, second only to Angel Di Maria and higher than Messi, and he continues to play some of the best soccer of his life.
Ospina with a double save after Pastore crafts a chance
In contrast to Pastore’s tournament, Lavezzi must be content on the sidelines. He must feel hard done by; already considered by some to be on his way out at PSG, he nevertheless had a superb World Cup under Sabella and has arguably not been given enough of a chance to regain that position. Pocho nevertheless slotted home his penalty and nearly earned the winning goal himself, if not for Colombia’s Jeison Murillo’s goal-line clearance (which came back to bite him as he sent his penalty kick into orbit).
Argentina will face the winner of Brazil vs. Paraguay in the semi-finals, and will hope to use this momentum to earn their first Copa America since 1993. Should Brazil advance, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, and Marquinhos will reunite with their Argentine teammates in a Superclasico semi-final. That is, of course, if they advance without the talismanic services of Neymar—this is CONMEBOL, after all, and the word “favorite” is completely meaningless.
Stats courtesy of whoscored.com