The 2011 Copa America got off to a very thrilling start as hosts - and tournament favorites - Argentina drew 1-1 with Bolivia in La Plata.
While Argentina was clearly the better team, Bolivia managed to hold their own against despite playing before a tough crowd. Argentina dominated possession early in the game and created so many scoring chances, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before they blew the game open. I’ll give Bolivia credit for staying organized on defense; and even asserting themselves offensively as the half wore on.
Bolivia turned the game on its head when they took the lead just after the break. Edivaldo Rojas played a cheeky back-hill off a corner with the ball bouncing off an Argentine defender, and despite Sergio Romero's best effort, he was a little late in preventing the ball from crossing the line. Call it a fluke goal, call it lucky, but it was well deserved as Bolivia stayed consistent throughout, and their efforts were rewarded. Later on, Marcelo Moreno managed to get behind the defense, but wasted what might have been Bolivia's best chance to seal the game; as unbelievable as that might sound.
Even though Argentina proved to be dangerous on the counter attack, a lot of opportunities went begging due to the lack of that final touch. Ezequiel Lavezzi was the prime culprit, as he opted for goal many a time, rather than setting up his teammates who were in a better position to finish. He was eventually subbed off with 20 minutes left, and in came Sergio Aguero.
Aguero equalized within 5 minutes of entering the game, and he turned out to be the spark that the hosts needed. He came close to scoring again a few more times, as Argentina again dominated the rest of the proceedings. Still, Bolivia managed to hang tight and came away with a well deserved point.
Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez were rather ineffective for most of the game, with Argentina's best scoring chances coming from wing-play. Angel Di Maria and Lavezzi appeared to have a better game on all accounts, and Sergio Aguero was easily the team's best player, judging by his impact on the game.
Argentina play Colombia next, and it will be interesting to see if any line-up changes are in order. I doubt it would hurt to give Aguero more playing time and see what kind of impact he'll have on the game. A lot will be expected from Messi too, but he could become a non-factor should Argentina's best attacking chances continue to come from the wings.
I don't know if there could be a better setting for Argentina to end their 18-year Copa America drought. They finished as runners-up to Brazil in the previous two tournaments (2004 & 2007), but you couldn't deny that they were playing some of the best attacking football of any team. What separates those teams from this one, is that those teams scored goals; a lot of them.
It's still too early in the tournament, but Argentina has a lot of work to do if they are prevent that trophy from leaving its borders.