Salvador (Brazil) (AFP)
Colombia laid down a statement of intent in their opening Copa
America clash, defeating Lionel Messi's Argentina 2-0 in coach
Carlos Queiroz's first competitive match in charge.
The 66-year-old handler has been quick to make his mark on a team
that was knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia at the
The former Real Madrid coach, and assistant to Alex Ferguson at
Manchester United, only took over the reins in February after
leaving his job as Iran coach having just led the team to the
Asian Cup semi-finals.
He was lauded by the Colombian press on Sunday for putting in
place "the perfect plan," according to El Tiempo, and ending a
winless run against Argentina that had lasted more than 11 years.
Everything was "co-ordinated, functional, as if the most
efficient watches weren't Swiss but Portuguese," the newspaper
Queiroz himself had been delighted with what he saw, as Colombia
defended solidly in a second half dominated by Argentina after
being by far the better team in the first period.
Ironically, it was during Argentina's ascendency that Colombia
found the key to success, with Roger Martinez opening the scoring
on 72 minutes and Duvan Zapata sealing victory three minutes from
"We played with great team spirit. We showed a lot of character,
which was constant through the match, with great tactical
discipline and a lot of commitment," said Queiroz.
"Over the 90 minutes we continued to create chances, including
when Argentina were dominating when we regrouped very well and
quickly, closing up the channels."
- 'Immovable defence' -
The online version of El Espectador marveled at the "attacking
approach" and "immovable" defensive plan put in place by Queiroz,
who has now won four of his five matches in charge of the team.
"It's been many years since we've seen such a fluent team against
such tough rivals as Argentina," added El Espectador.
Queiroz, who is coaching a fifth national team over four
continents, took over from the popular Jose Pekerman after a
successful period in which Colombia qualified for both the 2014
and 2018 World Cups.
Queiroz previously coached the United Arab Emirates, South Africa
and his homeland on two occasions.
He has impressed his new employers with his football philosophy
of running hard, both with and without the ball.
"After more than 36 years of experience I can say that the style
I like is the art of winning," he said when presented as
Colombia's new coach.
"If that style is rock and roll, we'll do it, and if it's samba,
we'll do that.
"Whatever we need to do to play a match with the art of winning,
is what we'll do."
He had said that every one of his players would get "a role and a
function" in his typically European 4-3-3 system.
Colombia never stopped running, harrying and pressing against
Argentina, and never lost their shape or structure either.
Their work ethic was epitomized by midfielder Wilmar Barrios, who
worked tirelessly to deny Messi space in Salvador.
The defence shackled Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero while
Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria had almost been forgotten
about before his number appeared on the substitutes' board at the
start of the second period.
While Colombia played a possession-based game under Pekerman,
here it was pressure on the ball that distinguished Queiroz's
Even the most creative elements such as Radamel Falcao and James
Rodriguez distinguished themselves with their high press.
"We managed to always get two or three players around the ball
and that helped us to take on a very good team with great
players, such as Argentina," said Queiroz.
Next up his team will face tournament guests Qatar, the Asian
champions, in Sao Paulo where a victory would guarantee their
progress to the knockout rounds.