Things in Group D might get a little bit clearer with Argentina taking on Panama in a match for the top spot in the group, while both Chile and Bolivia can’t afford to lose in their encounter at Gillette Stadium.
Argentina beat Chile 2-1 in their opening match, playing without Lionel Messi. Nicolas Gaitan filled in very well for him, Angel di Maria always takes on more responsibility without any problem for the national side, and overall, things worked. But Messi’s back seems to be fine, and that means the whole dynamic changes again. Messi has no problem sharing the spotlight with dominant players. The only question is whether or not Martino might prefer to keep things cautious, and start Messi off the bench.
Panama looked excellent in their win against Bolivia. Blas Perez has a chance to make his mark on international football after an impressive two-goal performance against Bolivia. The MLS has been dissed recently by Brazilian and Italian managers, but it has certainly given a lot of Central American players a chance to play with some better competition around him. Perez is 35 and this is probably his last go at a big tournament. Panama will be relying mostly on him to take advantage of an Argentine defense that isn’t the brick wall it was two years ago in the World Cup.
For Chile, the defending champions of the tournament (hosted the 2015 edition), there’s no other time to pick things up better than now. We’re not likely to see too many changes in the lineup, maybe nothing at all. A loss to Argentina might be frustrating, but it’s understandable. Bolivia don’t present any tactical or physical challenge, especially when they’re not playing at the heights of La Paz. Bolivia looked bad against Panama of all teams, and shouldn’t be a team that Chile find it difficult to play against.
At the end of this day, Argentina should be in a position of being already qualified, or one point away from it. It’ll be shocking if Bolivia are still in play, although we have seen them give Argentina trouble in the past, so any mishap against Panama could make things complicated for a side that hasn’t won the Copa America since 1993, and hasn’t dealt with immense pressure too well in this competition during recent years.