Wednesday 16 November 2016, 03:49

Bauza: Argentina have an extraordinary group of players

Edgardo Bauza is delighted for his Argentina players after they responded to criticism with a much-needed 3-0 win over Colombia in 2018 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. La Albiceleste hadn’t won in four matches – a run that had included defeat at home to Paraguay and a 3-0 loss away to arch-rivals Brazil – and had descended to sixth in the South American standings. However, a sublime free-kick from Lionel Messi, plus goals from Lucas Pratto and Angel Di Maria, lifted them to fifth, one point behind Ecuador and Chile.

“I have not understood or agreed with the criticism of players who have given so much for this team,” said Bauza. “They leave their lives for this shirt and they will continue to do so. They always want to win and are the first to work towards this.

“I’m very happy for them. They’re an extraordinary group of players. I have never felt that they didn’t support me or had issues with my ideas.

“It wasn’t an easy match and they solved it very well, very methodically. Our game plan was similar to the one we had against Uruguay (Argentina won 1-0 in September). We had to stop a team who are very dangerous offensively. We defended well and Colombia couldn’t break us down. The result was very important.”

Argentina now have four months before they return to action for the Russia 2018 double-header at home to Chile and away to Bolivia. Bauza, however, will have no time to rest.

“I’ll go to Europe to watch matches,” he revealed. “I’ll keep in touch with the players and I won’t rule out the possibility of calling up someone we’ve been watching and watching.”

Only Brazil (20), Germany (18) and Italy (18) have appeared in more World Cups than Argentina (16). The last time La Albiceleste failed to participate was at Mexico 1970.