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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Flair and curlers light up Copa America

A timeless classic from Lionel Messi and an intricately designed web of passes borne from a set-piece by Colombia are a reminder of the quality on display at the Copa America in Brazil.

Written by Shashank Nair | New Delhi |
Updated: June 16, 2021 7:34:53 am
Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal (Source: Reuters)

While most eyes are trained towards the Euro 2020, two exquisite free-kicks — one a timeless classic from Lionel Messi and the other, an intricately designed web of passes borne from a set-piece by Colombia, are a reminder of the quality on display at the Copa America in Brazil.

Dancing around defenders

In the 40th minute of their match against Ecuador, Colombia won a free-kick 20 yards out of the opposition box. Rather than choose to shoot or loft the ball directly in, Edwin Carbona decided to pass the ball to Juan Cuadrado. While the rest of his team and Ecuador’s backline moved towards goal, the right back jogged backwards. From there, Cuadrado and Carbona exchanged a quick one-two which forced the Ecuadorian back four into a dilemma. Should they advance forward and try to win the ball, or hold the line and wait for Colombia to make their move?

The confusion saw most of the defence move forwards, except for Ecuador’s right-winger Gonzalo Plata, who couldn’t make his mind up in time. Cuadrado meanwhile, launched a lofted ball to striker Miguel Borja, who was in the box and hadn’t moved a muscle throughout the routine. Plata shifting backwards, put Borja onside, who guided a header onto the path of Carbona. The man who began the sequence had now reached the box and with a low drive to the right of the Ecuadorian goalkeeper, completed the ultimate free-kick routine to get Colombia the 1-0 win.

Messi in the middle

Lionel Messi, the free-kick taker, is a dangerous entity — especially when the Argentine is tasked to take a set-piece from a position where he can go to either side of the goalkeeper. Chile’s Claudio Bravo, fresh off saving two close Messi free-kicks in a World Cup Qualifier between the two sides earlier this month, was stuck in no man’s land. Bravo surmised that Messi was capable of curling the ball to either of his sides and chose to position himself slightly right to the middle of his goal.

Bravo’s intent was to move to the left of his kingdom just as Messi began his runup, but the Chilean had left himself way too much ground to cover. Messi’s trademark free-kick — curling and dipping onto the top right corner was unleashed. It wasn’t the best free-kick he had taken, but Bravo’s initial position didn’t help as the ball went into the goal, just shy of the top corner.

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