Lionel Messi issued something of a rallying cry as Argentina attempt to kick-start their Copa America campaign against Uruguay on Friday.
Messi scored Argentina's only goal – a gorgeous free-kick – last time out, but it was not enough to seal a victory against Chile.
Eduardo Vargas levelled for La Roja after Arturo Vidal failed to convert an initial penalty, and despite Argentina creating a plethora of chances, they could not find a way past Claudio Bravo again.
Nicolas Gonzalez, who is reportedly close to joining Brighton and Hove Albion, was particularly culpable, spurning several good opportunities. He had six shots with a total xG (expected goals) value of 1.2, but he failed to find the net with any of them – Neymar is the only player with a higher xG (1.5) who failed to score so far.
As it turns out, Lionel Scaloni is reportedly considering resting Gonzalez due to him coming into the tournament with an injury, though Cristian Romero is potentially in line for a return at the back after a thigh issue.
Whoever plays, Messi is looking to ensure they are suitably motivated ahead of what will undoubtedly be another bruising encounter, given the historic rivalry between Argentina and Uruguay, who have not lost any of their last five Copa America games (after 90 minutes).
On his official Instagram account, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner wrote: "We are prepared to compete and we will continue fighting to win every game. Vamos Argentina!"
?? ???????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ??? ????????? ??????, ???????? ?? ??? ???????? ??????? pic.twitter.com/scnMcyDuMA— Nicolas Otamendi (@Notamendi30) June 17, 2021
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Argentina – Nicolas Otamendi
While Argentina certainly are not shy of talent going forward, they are less convincing at the back. Otamendi has come in for criticism in recent times lately, and even posted a message on social media this week addressing the situation, saying: "Don't allow the noise of other people's opinions to silence your inner voice. Always be positive." But in fairness to him, his four tackles was twice as many as any of his team-mates last time out, while his six clearances was five more than anyone else.
Uruguay – Lucas Torreira
Sure, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani carry a lot of responsibility going forward for Uruguay, but they need to do their best to keep Messi quiet as well. A fool's errand that may be, but – if he starts – Torreira is likely to have some say in whether or not La Celeste can keep the Barcelona man quiet. A feisty competitor and tough tackler, his potential duel with Messi could be crucial.
KEY OPTA FACTS
-Argentina and Uruguay will meet in a Copa America campaign after going two tournaments without doing so (2016 and 2019). La Albiceleste are unbeaten in their last four meetings against La Celeste (W3 D1). The last Uruguay win was in 1989.
-Argentina have lost just one of their last nine meetings with Uruguay in all competitions (W5 D3). Their last defeat against Uruguay was in October 2013.
-Uruguay come into this game on an unbeaten run of five games (90 minutes only). Their last defeat in 90 minutes in this competition was in June 2016 (0-1 vs Venezuela).
-Argentina scored with only six per cent of their shots – the lowest conversion ratio of any team in the opening round of games.
-Oscar Tabarez will be managing his seventh Copa America. He will face Argentina for the 31st time and is the manager with the fourth-most games overseen in this tournament.