Argentina earn honors against Paraguay as Messi architect yet another victory for La Albiceleste

June 22, 2021

Copa America 2021 is proving to be the best tournament so far for both the Latin American giants Brazil and Argentina who are relishing their souls with wins and unbeaten streaks in their own rhythm. Argentina with Lionel Messi who made his 147th appearance in the La Albiceleste colors did not let Eduardo Berizo’s Paraguay side stand a chance against them as they had comfortably secured their place into the next stages of the competition.

Lionel Scaloni had made six changes to the line-up than their last match as he brought in Di Maria and Sergio Aguero, now a Barcelona man into the starting eleven. Sergio Aguero played his first match for Argentina since their Copa America loss in 2019 and what a great day to be beside his best friend and now club mate Lionel Messi who matched Javier Mascherano’s record for the most number of caps in the blue-and-white colors. On the other hand, the Paraguay manager fielded up a vastly unchanged line-up making a single change in the central midfield as he brought in Cubas.

Argentina rolled the ball with the first whistle of the kick-off building up the attacks from right to left with Di Maria’s scissor cut-ins inside the Paraguayan defensive third with his incisive passes down to the left flank. Alejandro “Papu” Gomez had fired a swerving left-footed shot from the edge of the box as it sailed above the crossbar within 6 minutes of play. Sergio Aguero looked sharp but he missed a golden opportunity of opening the score line with a defensive mix-up between two Paraguay defenders as his shot found the top of the net.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL – JUNE 21: Angel Di Maria of Argentina reacts during the match between Argentina and Paraguay at Mane Garrincha Stadium on June 21, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)
Argentina’s Sergio Aguero (L) and Paraguay’s Andres Cubas vie for the ball during their Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on June 21, 2021. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

Papu Gomez did not make the same mistake twice as he lobbed in a brilliant through ball from Angel Di Maria just inside the edge of the penalty area at the back of the net way past Silva at around 10th minute and put Argentina back at the driver’s seat. Lionel Andres Messi played the role of the architecture of the goal yet again with his precision of a pass to Di Maria who was just at the right place at the right time to supply the ball in for Papu Gomez.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL – JUNE 21: Alejandro Papu Gomez of Argentina scores his goal during the match between Argentina and Paraguay at Mane Garrincha Stadium on June 21, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Segio Aguero was fouled by Gustavo Gomez right on the edge of the penalty area and the referee awarded Argentina with a free kick at a dangerous spot from which Messi came close to doubling the score line but his low and hard strike missed the target from inches out. The Paraguay defense line with three defenders closing in every sense of attack possible from the Argentine attacking third which had been dominated much of the remaining first half. But at the additional minutes of the first-half play La Albiceleste dared on to double their lead as Di Maria’s initial shot was parried well by Silva but the ball eventually fell to Argentina’s mercy as Leonardo Paredes fed it to Papu Gomez on his left and his low cross was bundled into the net by Alonso. As there was an offside in the built-up to the goal, the score board remained with the home team leading 1-0.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL – JUNE 21: Lionel Messi of Argentina competes for the ball with Ángel Cardozo (L), Santiago Arzamendia and Richard Sanchez (R) of Paraguay during a group A match between Argentina and Paraguay as part of Conmebol Copa America Brazil 2021 at Mane Garrincha Stadium on June 21, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

Paraguay had been unable to use their pace to attack through the flanks as Scaloni’s men had done a good job of cutting passing lanes and protecting their penalty area with all their might. Kaku and Almiron’s coming together for a single shot that too out of target showed the real flaw of the Paraguay side. The second- half did not prove to be any octave different with regard to Paraguay’s performance as they controlled most of the possession and opened spaces in the Argentine midfield area. Paredes’ pass to Messi as he dribbled on with his finesse inside the penalty area and looked to chipped the ball at his far post was repelled by a leaping Gustavo Gomez. The visitors put all their 10 players into Argentina’s half as they took control of the tempo of the match in search for their opener as they switched the play from left to right and back again and freed Almiron up on the flank as he looked to play a low cross into the penalty area which was blocked by Molina. The incessant crosses from the Paraguayan attackers into the dangerous areas inside Argentina’s defensive third were dealt with quite impressively by the Argentinean blockers.  

Angel Correa’s burst into the penalty box at the 86th minute with a square pass across the face of the goal for Lionel Messi which was cleared by Arzamendia was the last clear cut chance for Argentina to double the lead. The match concluded with only Alejandro Papu Gomez’s name on the score sheet with the La Albiceleste bagging in seven points from their three Copa America matches and keeping their unbeaten run intact.

The observation for Argentina’s performance would be that this team is getting themselves habituated with the behavior of losing their apparent focus on the attack when they are already 1-0 up and this is by far should be a place of concern for Lionel Scaloni who would have to face stronger sides like Brazil and Chile into the later stages of the tournament. The defense line is strong and holding down their fort as we would be delighted to see them do but the attacking side is lacking a bit of stability when it comes to stepping up their lead into a match with attacking opposition.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi vies for the ball with Paraguay’s Miguel Almiron (L) and Oscar Romero during their Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on June 21, 2021. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

Team News:

Argentina starting XI: Martinez; Molina Lucero, Romero, Tagliafico, Pezzella; Paredes, Rodriguez, Gomez, Messi, Aguero, Di Maria.

Paraguay starting XI: Silva; Arzamendia, Alonso, Gomez, Espinola; Piris da Motta, A Cubas; Romero, Almiron, Romero Gamarra; Avalos