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Real pressure for Argentina

Mon 17 Jun by Mark Gleeson

StoryOfWeek

International football is in the spotlight over the next few weeks with three major continental titles up for grabs - in Africa, South America and Central and North America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) region. The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off this Friday in Cairo (see Page 3 and in the weekend TAB SPORTS Express), but both the Copa America and CONCAFAF Gold Cup got underway at the weekend. And those competitions have already delivered some upset results that enhanced the payouts of TAB’s Soccer 6 and 10 bets on Saturday and produced a Soccer 4 dividend of R37,623. Notable among the upsets was the 2-0 loss that Argentina suffered at the hands of Colombia in a disappointing start to Lionel Messi’s latest, and probably last, bid to try and finally win a major international title with his country. They are now immediately under pressure and must win against Paraguay tomorrow and Qatar in their last group game. They will need to dig deep, particularly in the mental department. Brazil are hosting the tournament and won the opening game last Friday by beating Bolivia 3-0 with two second-half goals from Messi’s Barcelona teammate Philippe Coutinho. But supporters were far from happy with manager Tite's tactics and let the team know about it at half-time. Fans at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium, which was around 70% full, booed Brazil at the break after a goalless first half in the Group A match. Brazil play a second game tonight against Venezuela and will likely take maximum points to ensure they progress to the quarter-finals. But they are but no means a runaway favourite for this event. The expanded CONCAFAF event has entered a new era with 16 nations and a 17-venue schedule that showcases USA stadia like never before, ahead of their hosting of the 2026 World Cup. Mexico has won seven of the 14 previous editions of the CONCAFAF competition and are favoured over the USA, the defending champions. Both teams enter the tournament with new coaches plucked from the ranks of Major League Soccer - Mexico's Tata Martino (Atlanta United) and the USA's Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew) - and new teams. Mexico's have been decimated by player withdrawals. But what separates Mexico from the USA is their depth of talent, which has allowed Martino to put together an exciting new team after the disappointment of their exit in the second round of the 2018 World Cup.

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