Colombia’s late blitz sees off Argentina

Group B

Argentina 0-2 Colombia

Colombia heaped misery on Lionel Messi and Argentina with a 2-0 victory in their Copa America opener on Saturday.

Runners-up in 2015 and 2016, Messi’s Argentina were looking to banish their past demons in pursuit of a first major international title since 1993.

However, Argentina were upstaged by Colombia, who made a winning start in Group B thanks to Roger Martinez’s 71st-minute stunner and Duvan Zapata’s late sealer.

As Argentina pressed and probed, first-half substitute Martinez sent a thunderous strike past Franco Armani in Salvador and Zapata made sure of the win during the closing stages.

Argentina came into the tournament off a 5-1 rout of Nicaragua and with the most Copa victories in history (119) but the South American giants did not look like winning against Colombia.

Martinez – a replacement for Luis Muriel in the 14th minute – linked up with Radamel Falcao but his shot deflected just wide of the post as Colombia appeared the more likely to strike first.

Overall, it was a forgettable opening 45 minutes, which did not see a single shot on target from either team, with Messi subdued.

It was more of the same in the second half, though Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was finally called into action after a vicious volley from Leandro Paredes approaching the hour mark.

The match did come to life moments later when Juan Cuadrado’s tackle on Messi threatened to spark a melee as Argentina players rushed in to confront the Colombia winger.

That triggered Argentina, who almost took the lead after Nicolas Otamendi’s powerful header forced Ospina into a low diving save, while Messi was unable to head home the rebound with the goal at his mercy.

But Colombia broke the deadlock with 19 minutes remaining – Martinez collecting the ball on the flank and drifting inside before beating Armani from distance – and fellow substitute Zapata doubled the lead four minutes from the end courtesy of an emphatic close-range finish.

Argentina meet Paraguay on Wednesday, while Colombia face guests and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

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