Argentina’s Copa America campaign got off to the worst possible start as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Colombia – but captain Lionel Messi vowed afterwards that the team is still “up for the challenge.”
Colombia claimed a first win over their South American rivals since 2007 thanks to a superb goal from substitute Roger Martinez in the 71st minute and a second from fellow substitute Duvan Zapata 15 minutes later at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
Argentina had dominated for large spells during the game, as Messi failed to head home a rebound from close range for what was their best chance.
Messi was cynically scythed down by Juan Cuadrado in the second half, earning himself a yellow card and sparking a mass melee on the pitch.
Colombia saw out the win to put them top of Group B, while it was more misery for an Argentinian team looking to win a first major trophy since victory at the tournament in 1993.
Captain Messi said after the game that the team was still “up for the fight.”
“We are ready to accept the challenge we have. There is not time to complain, we have to look forward. We have to raise our heads and continue,” the Barcelona star said.
Argentina, this year coached by Lionel Scaloni, have suffered defeat in the last two Copa America finals, losing each time to Chile on penalties.
The tournament is seen as a chance at international redemption for Messi, who has lost in four finals with the national team and has no major silverware to show in more than a decade with the team – despite all his glittering success with club team Barcelona.
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After the defeat to Colombia, however, Twitter users were quick to pile in on Messi’s long-running woe with his country.
Argentina will look to bounce back when they face Paraguay in their next group game on Wednesday, before ending the group against tournament guests Qatar.
The top two in each group are guaranteed a place in the knockout stages, meaning all is far from lost for Messi and Co.