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Goal.com takes a look at the key personal battles ahead of the high-profile clash between the South American nations

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By Adam Scime

Colombia have a golden opportunity on Wednesday evening to solidify their position as top dogs in Group A, while inflicting further misery on Argentina. Hernan Gomez's side sit at the summit courtesy of their 1-0 win over Costa Rica, while the host nation could only stumble to a 1-1 draw with Bolivia.

It was clear Argentina's fabled stars failed to click, but that cannot happen again if Sergio Batista's men are to have any hope of clinching their first Copa America since 1993.

While the Albiceleste have Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Co., Colombia, considered darkhorses by many ahead of the tournament, have several star names of their own who are capable of making a difference and providing another shock result.

Without further ado, Goal.com takes a look at the key individual battles that could decide the outcome on Wednesday night.

   

Messi continues to be unable to replicate his club form for his country, and the criticism has only increased after their opening-day stutter in La Plata. When he eventually does perform miracles for Argentina, one can only imagine a huge weight will be lifted from the diminutive forward's shoulders. He has won everything at club level, however success with his country is the next step to legendary status for the Ballon d'Or winner.

Playing in a centre-forward role, Messi will clash with a man 11 years his senior in AC Milan's Yepes. Despite his excellent positional sense and powerful presence, the veteran lacks pace and that is a flaw Messi could expose if he is allowed space and time to run at the former Chievo and Paris Saint-Germain stalwart.

 

Despite not being a regular for Barcelona, Milito is first choice for Argentina and if there are question marks over any area of the host's squad, it is central defence, where the 31-year-old lines up alongside Nicolas Burdisso. The brother of team-mate Diego, Gabriel will certainly have his hands full against one of the in-form strikers of this past season.

A critical part of Porto's Europa League success, predictions cast Falcao as a favourite for the Golden Boot in the Copa America, after he broke Jurgen Klinsmann's record on the way to scoring 17 goals in Europe's second-tier competition. He failed to get off the mark against Costa Rica, but if supplied with decent service it seems inevitable that the prolific striker will find the back of the net.



Arguably the best holding midfielder at the tournament, Mascherano's battle with Guarin could prove highly entertaining. The ex-Liverpool star failed to stamp his authority as he is capable of doing against Bolivia, and will be keen to make up for it and work out a way to thrive alongside Esteban Cambiasso and Ever Banega.

Guarin's profile continues to rise, having also enjoyed success with Porto this season, and he was Colombia's best performer in their 1-0 win over Costa Rica, constantly slicing their defence apart with a wonderful range of passes, including when he set up the winner. Dangerous and enterprising in midfield, he must avoid being shut down by Mascherano in order to provide a similarly creative display.
 

Given the confidence of coach Batista, Lavezzi was Argentina's most disappointing player in the opener, awarded a lowly 4.0 in Goal.com's Player Ratings. He is set to keep his place, but the wing wizard will need to be much improved if his side are to accomplish anything in attack. The Napoli man must utilise the ability that has seen him become an integral part of the Italian club's success over the past couple of years in order to turn around his nation's fortunes.

This is indeed an all-Serie A battle, as blossoming Udinese defender Armero will look to silence Lavezzi. The fleet-footed Colombian often dominated the flank this season in Italy's top flight, and is able to move up and down the pitch with remarkable consistency. He'll be hopeful of winning the duel to guide his team to another three points.

 

'Checho' received plenty of criticism after Argentina were lifeless going forward against Bolivia and must quickly rectify the situation to mould his side into challengers for the title. Despite Sergio Aguero's positive contribution, Batista looks set to maintain the same system and players in midfield and attack, but he has plenty of food for thought as a poor result against the Colombians could leave his side scrambling to qualify.

Gomez will only be disappointed with his side's inability to run up a more convincing scoreline against 10-man Costa Rica, earning a narrow 1-0 win. Going into the match against one of the favourites, all the pressure is on his opponents, and that is when a darkhorse like Colombia can thrive. He only has one question to answer - will he set out to attack the hosts or sit back and frustrate them?

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