With such incredible potential at its disposal, Argentina should proceed to the decisive stages of the Olympic Games without breaking a sweat.
Everyone predicted the group opener with the Ivory Coast would be a challenge. In reality, it was significantly more difficult than the 2-1 score suggested. The dynamic West African side outplayed Argentina for large periods of the match and could well have won it if not for some hesitant finishing.
Argentina eventually won the three points courtesy of a scrappy strike from substitute
As was the case against the Ivory Coast, however, the persistent Argentines finally picked up a well-deserved victory after a moment of genius from
Having already secured passage into the quarterfinals, Batista rested several of his key players for Argentina's final group match against Serbia. Argentina still managed to cruise to a comfortable 2-0 victory, and could even afford to miss a penalty, as
Although missing the inspiration of attacking players Messi and
Despite a first-rate display from his second-choice players against the Serbs, Batista has affirmed that his starting 11 for the enticing quarterfinal matchup with the Netherlands in Shanghai on Saturday will look "almost identical" to the one that turned out against the Ivory Coast.
But having encountered its fair share of difficulty in the first round -- particularly when it came down to penetrating its opponents -- Argentina knows that things can only get significantly harder. To overcome the Netherlands, Argentina will have to be on top of its game at all moments.
The Dutch may have left a lot to be desired in the group stage, after having only scraped into the quarters with two draws (including a dramatic last-gasp 2-2 tie with the U.S.) and an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Japan. Nevertheless, they are a traditional soccer power and one that Argentina will most definitely respect.
"We have to be very cautious of Holland, we have to respect them because they have good players," insisted Batista. "But I think the team [Argentina] has what it takes to win the match, but Holland deserves our respect."
There's no question Argentina is more than capable of eliminating the Netherlands, particularly because the Dutch have looked extremely shaky in defense and have lacked efficiency in their attack.
If Messi is able to link up with the likes of Lavezzi and
A victory would perhaps assure Argentina of a highly anticipated showdown with South American rivals Brazil in the semifinals. Even though an encounter between both sides would have been more suitable for the gold-medal match, it does promise to be an intriguing contest.
The solid Cameroonians eliminated Brazil at the quarterfinal stage of Sydney 2000, before edging Spain on penalties for the gold medal, and the
Argentina has the potential to retain its Olympic gold medal, but to do this it must be prepared to adjust itself to the circumstances that lie ahead as the competition reaches its decisive elimination stage. The Argentines are still the team to beat, but must focus on its objective at all moments.