Argentina makes four changes for decider with Costa Rica
CORDOBA (Reuters) -- Struggling hosts Argentina have made four changes for Monday's match against Costa Rica which they must win to be sure of reaching the Copa America quarter-finals.
Coach Sergio Batista announced his line-up, aimed at freeing Lionel Messi from close marking in the middle, on the squad's arrival in Cordoba from their Buenos Aires base on Sunday night.
Costa Rica, second in Group A after a 1-0 win over Bolivia, and Argentina, who have drawn twice, meet at Cordoba's Mario Alberto Kempes stadium on Tuesday (0045 GMT). Colombia won the group and qualified with a 2-0 win over Bolivia on Sunday.
"We needed more ball movement and Fernando (Gago) does that very well," Batista told a news conference, referring to using the Real Madrid midfielder in place of Ever Banega.
"And now we're going to have a number nine high up, even two," he added referring to bringing in Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero in place of the ineffective Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
The other change is Angel Di Maria on the left of midfield instead of Esteban Cambiasso, a winger in place of a defensive midfielder.
The plan, with a midfield that helped Batista's Olympic team win the soccer gold medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, is to allow Messi to roam, mainly on the right, and draw markers away from the Argentine creative hub while also joining it at will.
Messi, in a roaming centre forward role in the first two matches, suffered the close attentions of several players in scaled marking.
A frustrated Messi and the rest of the players were booed off the pitch in Santa Fe but Batista said he would never think of dropping the little FIFA world player of the year.
"The idea is always to build a team around Messi ... It's very hard to drop him because, for me, he is a 90-minute player. He can play badly a while, but he can always show you something," Batista said.
Team: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Milito, Javier Zanetti; Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero.