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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 15:39 GMT
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Carlos Tevez is sent off against Colombia
Tevez could pay a high price for his moment of madness
It was only a little kick, miles off the ball, but it was spotted by the linesman and so it was that Carlos Tevez was sent off 24 minutes into Argentina's World Cup qualifier away to Colombia.

It turned out to be an important little kick, and in time may become even more so; in the short term, it was his team-mates who paid the price, but in the longer run it could well be Tevez himself.

The immediate outcome of Tevez's red card was that Argentina slipped from top place in the table after suffering their first defeat in the campaign.

For half an hour after being reduced to 10 men they were superb, dictating the rhythm from midfield, taking the heat out of the game and creating chances.

It was the kind of form that led Colombia coach Jorge Luis Pinto after the game to dub them not only the best side in the world, but the best he has seen in the last 20 years.

Lionel Messi scored a wonderful goal, and missed a golden opportunity to add a second.

Lasting the full 90 minutes, though, was always going to be tough.

Playing with 10 men for well over an hour, at the altitude of Bogota, after the long journey north from Buenos Aires, against a Colombian side of terrific intensity - all of this would inevitably take its toll, and the hosts struck in the last half-hour to win 2-1.

Results come and go. Strike partnerships stay around for longer. Tevez's real problem is not that he cost his side a defeat, but instead that he has put his international first-team place in jeopardy.

The suspension he will have to serve could hardly be coming at a worse time.

There are signs that Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid has a better chemistry with Lionel Messi than Tevez has

Even before the red card there were reasons to believe that Tevez's grip on the position might be slipping. Now, with the Manchester United player suspended for the next round, Argentina coach Alfio Basile will have to look elsewhere.

Messi's performance in Bogota merely confirmed his place in the pecking order. He plays up front, usually operating from the right, but also drifting infield to work closely with playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme.

There is no doubt about it - although three strikers might be used on the odd occasion (such as at home to Bolivia) - the general rule is that Argentina's attack will be formed by Messi plus one.

The question then becomes which one is the best option to play alongside him, and the evidence so far hints that Tevez might not be the best available.

The conventional choice would be a target man, such as Hernan Crespo, who was filling the role until he injured himself scoring a penalty in the Copa America.

Very few sides can play without an aerial presence in the penalty area, and Crespo has since recovered and been recalled to the squad - but time is against him.

The next matches in the qualification campaign are not until June 2008, when he will be approaching 33.

Current favourite German Denis of Independiente is unlikely to be a long term solution and Gonzalo Higuain, appointed by Crespo as his probable successor, has yet to be called up and is being used in a different role at Real Madrid.

So the stronger challenge to Tevez might well come from another short, stocky striker: Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid.

With lower body strength, pace and skill in tight spaces, there is something of a young Romario about Aguero, who has made a superb start to the season and scored his debut international goal against Bolivia just over a week ago.

In his favour are the signs that he has a better chemistry with Messi than Tevez has.

The two Spanish-based players were room-mates in the triumphant 2005 World Youth Cup campaign, and appear to have forged an understanding that they carry out onto the pitch.

Against Aguero, in the short term anyway, is the fact that he is likely to run out of steam this season after giving up his holidays to lead Argentina to last year's World Youth Cup win in Canada.

But Aguero is certainly in line to step in against Ecuador next June and if that red card in Colombia does cost Tevez his place, his next kick might well be aimed at himself.

You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 GMT every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at vickerycolumn@hotmail.com

Why does South American football confederation Conmebol insist on all 10 South American teams competing for World Cup places in the same group? Surely a move to two groups of five, with each team playing eight games and the top two from each group qualifying would be a better idea. What are your thoughts?
Tom Cole

The marathon one-group format (introduced for the 1998 qualifiers) has been one of the greatest things ever to happen to South American national teams.

Remember there are no qualifiers for the Copa America: under the old, much shorter format of World Cup qualifiers there were gaps of years between competitive international matches.

Now they have exactly the kind of structure that European national teams take for granted: regular competitive matches, with the chance to build a team and grow in confidence and tactical awareness.

The rise of Ecuador and Venezuela is directly attributable to this change. Before the current format was introduced, Ecuador had only ever won five World Cup qualifiers. They won six in their first 1998 campaign and have hardly looked back.

As it is, the administrators bend over backwards to the European clubs - we have 18 rounds in the campaign, all double headers.

So for the European based players, that is nine trips back and forth across the Atlantic, spread over three years.

If we're talking about reducing fatigue, I suggest that the European clubs stop taking their players off to pre-season friendlies in the US or the Far East.

Just heard the Colombians did Argentina in the World Cup qualifier. Who are Colombia's big players now?
Willie Brown

The current side is much more workmanlike than the artistic side of the 1990s, but I hope that now they've made such a good start to the campaign, they'll show us plenty more.

He was injured and missed the Argentina win, but Radamel Falcao Garcia is a thoroughbred centre-forward who I think is destined for big things.

I like Macnally Torres as a young creative midfielder who can find the killer pass, and defensive midfielder Carlos Alberto Sanchez is physically very strong.

It's a young side full of people who can go on to make a name for themselves - and right back Ruben Bustos strikes a mean free-kick!



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