Batista's men rode their luck to a goal-less deadlock, as Colombia squandered two glorious chances to take the points against the home side.SANTA FE, Argentina - Indecision and attacking impotence once more characterized Argentina in its second Group B clash, as it was fortunate to stagger to a 0-0 draw against a Colombia side which will rue missed chances.
Adrian Ramos and Dayro Moreno both should have hit the net in the first half, but squandered golden opportunities to mean the points were split.
"We knew it'd be hard," Dyro said after the match. "Argentina is one of the best teams in the world, but Colombia is always prepared to take matches on as if they're finals, just like the coach tells us to."
After a frenzied build-up to the game in the packed home of Colon, Argentina and Colombia proceeded to play an entertaining first half marked by errors and missed chances. There were also some beautifully flowing passages of play, as both teams had chances to open the scoring.
The Colombians started nervously in Santa Fe, and soon found themselves on the back-foot against an Argentine attack with a point to prove. Ever Banega was the first to threaten the Cafetero goal, his free-kick sending Luis Martinez scrambling to tip behind. New Tijuana recruit Dayro Moreno was the most dangerous player on the away team early on, working well down both flanks in conjunction with deep-lying Radamel Falcao.
After a tense beginning Hernan Gomez's side began to look more comfortable, and should have taken the lead after 19 minutes. Dayro's cross caught the Argentine defense napping and Adrian Ramos was left free in the box, but his first-time effort was skied over the cross-bar.
If the Albiceleste was lucky after that scare, it was positively blessed not to fall behind on the half-hour. A horrible mistake by Gabriel Milito let in Ramos, and a clear penalty followed when Nicolas Burdisso chopped down the winger clear on goal. Referee Favio Fagundes correctly played advantage, however, and with an open goal Dayro somehow sliced his shot wide of the post.
Sergio Batista's team also went close. Carlos Tevez shot over after receiving a kind bounce in the area, while Ezequiel Lavezzi was released clean through by Lionel Messi only to find Martinez's legs.
It was Colombia which went into break the happier team after an impressive 45 minutes, while Messi and co. left with the sounds of fans' whistles ringing in their ears.
Neither side made a change at the break, and the game resumed at the same frenetic pace. Tevez thought that he had earned a spot-kick in the opening minutes with a decent shout for handball rejected by Fagundes, while Falcao stormed past three markers before being cut down. Argentina thought it had taken the lead through Lavezzi, but the linesman's flag was already up when the Napoli man headed agonizingly against the post.
Argentina showed plenty of attacking intent in the opening minutes of the second period, but too often lacked the final ball against a well-organized Colombian defense which did not give in an inch. The Cafeteros in turn withdrew into their own half, relying on smash-and-grab raids from Falcao, Ramos and Moreno moving the ball quickly forward. The biggest cheer of the evening thus far was reserved for Sergio Aguero, who entered for the again-disappointing Lavezzi with 60 minutes on the clock.
Fernando Gago was also introduced, and the Real Madrid man immediately injected some urgency into a pedestrian Argentine midfield. A raking pass found Tevez in the box, and Carlitos' shot flashed just over in a warning to the away team. Pablo Armero was the next to threaten. Released perfectly by Falcao, Armero's shot from the left whistled inches past the post, to the relief of the hosts. The Porto man himself was the next to break free, and Sergio Romero did excellently to palm away a bomb from the no. 9.
With 20 minutes left Batista went for broke, withdrawing Banega in favour of Gonzalo Higuain. The Real Madrid man forced a save out of Martinez, but again David Ospina's replacement was more than up to the task. A sturdy Colombian backline held firm, threatening late through substitute Teo Gutierrez, and hanging on in the final minutes a 0-0 draw was the best Argentina could hope for from an intensely mediocre performance.
Again the whistles rained down as Argentina trotted off the field. "You have to respect the fans, even if they are against you," Batista said. "You never like to leave the pitch in this way but it is up to us to improve on the pitch."
The tie means Colombia stays top of Group B and Argentina moves to second, with Bolivia and Ecuador set to complete the second round of matches on Thursday.
"We have a tough game this Sunday against Bolivia," Dayro said. "We must rest and think about the game until Friday so we can take the three points and go through in first place."
Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!