Copa America Centenario: Argentina looks to seal place in knockout stages against Panama
Copa America Centenario: Argentina looks to seal place in knockout stages against Panama

Heartbreak and the Argentina National Team. These are two words that have seemed to become synonymous at this point. Two years ago it was the 2014 World Cup Final which saw the Argentines push Germany all the way into extra time, only to see Mario Gotze break their hearts with a volleyed effort towards goal. Leo Messi's free kick went high over the bar a little after and so did Argentina's chances of winning sports greatest prize. Then last year, they went all the way to another final. The Copa America Final against home country Chile. There they battled with Chile for 120 minutes and went into penalties. Argentina then missed two out of their first three penalties and watched as Alexis Sanchez lobbed the ball past Sergio Romero to seal Chile's victory in the tournament. You could see by the looks on the Argentina team, especially by the tears of winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, heartbreak. They have to make sure that this year is different. 

Argentina starting off on a good note

Argentina has gotten off to a flying start in Copa America Centenario so far. They defeated rivals Chile 2-1 in the opening match of the group stage and now are joint leaders at the top of the table. It was first half goals by Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega which sealed the points for La Albiceleste. Thanks to some mistakes by Chile's defense, Argentina were able to hit on the counterattack and grab a crucial three points away in their first match. The only negative to take away was the late goal given up by Romero off a set piece. For years Romero and the backline have proven to be a weak link in the squad and giving up a goal late on in the game didn't help their confidence one bit. They may have gotten away with it in this game but as they progress farther in the tournament, they can't make those types of mistakes. 

With a win, Argentina now looks like favorites to win the group and what's even more impressive is the fact that they won their hardest group stage game without their best player. 

Lionel Messi, who is the engine behind Argentina's potent attack, watched the entire match on the sideline as he is still recovering from an injury he suffered a few weeks before the tournament. But things have been looking up for the FC Barcelona star as he trained with the team this past week. If all goes well, we may see him play against Panama. In all honesty, Argentina doesn't need to play Messi until the knockout stages but getting him on the field is the first priority no matter who the opponent is.

Blas Perez will be looking to help Panama get another win in the Copa America Centenario (Bernie Wells, VAVEL USA)
Blas Perez will be looking to help Panama get another win in the Copa America Centenario | Bernie Wells - VAVEL USA

Panama looking to shock the world

It was a fantastic first game for Panama as well as they beat Bolivia 2-1. In just their second ever Copa America, grabbing a win in the tournament is a cause for celebration. It was a double by Blas Perez, who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, that provided to be the difference in the game. With Chile losing, if Panama wins against Argentina they could clinch a place in the knockouts. It would truly be an upset for the ages. After looking dreadful in the friendlies leading up to the Copa America Centenario, Panama has seemed to shed their bad form but facing Argentina is no laughing matter. They will be facing the top team in the world and have to be more than special to win. They turned some heads with a win over Bolivia and it has them believing they can really turn some heads with a win over Argentina. 

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