By Rex Gowar
The pupil faces up to the master when Lionel Messi leads Argentina against Jose Pekerman’s Colombia in their Copa America quarter-final on Friday night. (23.30 GMT).
Former Argentina coach Pekerman gave Messi his international debut 10 years ago and took him to his first World Cup finals in Germany in 2006.
The final image of the pair at the tournament had Messi sitting head bowed on the bench as Pekerman overlooked him when making substitutions and the team lost to hosts Germany in a shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time in the quarter-finals.
Messi will be looking to ensure it is Pekerman left staring at the ground at the end of Friday’s match at Vina del Mar with 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina progressing to the semi-finals.
But, with 100 caps under his belt, Messi has nothing but praise and gratitude towards Pekerman and has often said: “He gave me a lot of advice that I don’t forget.”
It should be an open match which both Messi and Pekerman will be looking forward to given the attacking inclinations of both men and their teams after struggling to overcome defensive tactics from their group rivals and only shining intermittently.
“Colombia has a game that can favour us because they play and come out (of defence) more than the majority of our rivals up to now,” Argentina winger Angel Di Maria told Reuters.
“I think we’ll have more room to move up front. They have great players who also need mobility. We’re expecting an end-to-end match.”
Pekerman is now working with another classy number 10, James Rodriguez, top scorer at last year’s World Cup and the man some believe should have been named best player instead of Messi.
“We all know they have good players but I think it’s going to be 50-50 because Colombia also play, that’s why it will be a nice match,” Rodriguez told reporters.
“I think it’s obvious that in these three (group) matches I had little room, they were tight matches, intense, with a lot of friction and with little space I can’t play much.”
It will be the countries’ ninth meeting in the tournament, known as the South American Championship until its revamp in the late 1980s, with Argentina coming out on top in six.
In two previous Copa America clashes in Chile, Argentina won 9-1 in 1945 in the teams’ first ever meeting and 2-1 in 1991 when they won their 13th and penultimate title.