Rodriguez ready for duel with Messi in Copa America

Rodriguez ready for duel with Messi in Copa America

“Messi is in another world - he is a unique player", said James Rodriguez.

By (Agencies)

Published: Wed 24 Jun 2015, 11:03 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:52 PM

Argentina’s Lionel Messi during a training session in La Serena, Chile. — AP

Argentina’s Lionel Messi during a training session in La Serena, Chile. — AP

Vina del Mar — Lionel Messi and James Rodriguez are about to meet again. They’ve left their clubs behind — Barcelona and Real Madrid — and this time Messi is wearing Argentina’s blue and white and Rodriguez the red, blue and yellow of Colombia.

Of the four quarterfinals this week in the Copa America, Argentina vs. Colombia on Friday is the most compelling. Argentina have won this title 14 times and, with Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, have the most talented attack in the game.

Colombia have won this title only once. But it’s probably South America’s fastest rising power. They have an Argentine coach in Jose Pekerman and their own set of talented scorers including Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez.

Rodriguez believes facing Argentina in the quarterfinals presents Colombia with a great chance to raise their game after they scraped through the first phase, finishing in third position following a goalless draw with Peru. Their placing sets up a last-eight meeting with Group B winners Argentina, to be played on Friday, and the star thinks that taking on one of the tournament favourites is a great opportunity.

“Everyone knows that they have good players, but Colombia intends to play,” James said at a press conference on Monday. “I never want to play bad but sometimes it’s not how you want. Friday is a great match to try and make things better. We always want to win. There are still four more days to talk, but there are always things that can be improved.” The 23-year-old is yet to show the sort of form that earned him a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid after an impressive World Cup last year.

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has also struggled to translate his club form from this season to the Copa, and while James acknowledged his ability, he feels that Colombia are up to the task.

“Messi is in another world - he is a unique player. Colombia can play against a tough team,” he added.

Colombia had a nervous wait to find out if they would feature in the quarterfinals following their draw with Peru, but Brazil’s win against Venezuela was the result they needed in order to progress.

Rodriguez revealed that waiting on the outcome of that match proved nerve-wracking. “We wanted to go through and we knew we could get some help and that happened. Those three hours were intense, hoping that someone won,” he concluded.

Neither Argentina nor Colombia have put it together in group play. Argentina blew a two-goal lead, drawing 2-2 with Paraguay. They have 1-0 victories against Jamaica and Uruguay, and were fortunate after Uruguay dominated the late play.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino knows many players are spent from long European seasons. The Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus — with Messi on one side and Tevez on the other — was played just five days before the Copa America began.

“The failure to score and secure the outcome, it obviously beginning to generate some uneasiness,” Martino said. Colombia barely advanced, although they did beat Brazil 1-0 for their only group victory.

“When you play poorly, you pay,” said Rodriguez, who goes almost exclusively by his given name James, which he pronounces using Spanish phonetics — HA-mace. 

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