Argentina booked a quarterfinal beth in the Copa America 2021 as they beat Paraguay at the Estádio Nacional de Brasília. Papu Gomez's early strike was the sole goal as La Albiceleste dug out another 1-0 victory.
The Sevilla attacking midfielder scored brilliantly in the tenth minute as Lionel Messi set up the move with a lovely dribble and pass to find Angel Di Maria. The PSG winger's through ball found Gomez completely free in the box and he dinked the ball over Antony Silva to score for Argentina.
The Argentines started the game brightly and knocked on Paraguay's door twice before finally taking an early decisive lead. Gomez tried his luck from outside the box but his shot was just a tad too powerful and went over the crossbar. A couple of minutes later Sergio Aguero found himself in a one-on-one situation but could only direct the ball over the net.
They continued to create chances after Gomez's goal as well. In the 16th minute Argentina won a free-kick right at the edge of the box. Messi stepped up to take it but a low-driven shot missed the bottom right corner.
After an early lead, Argentina were made to sweat by Paraguay and the remainder of the match saw some crunching tackles from both teams. Argentina also had a goal ruled out for offside in first-half injury time. Papu Gomez's cross from the right was turned into the net by Junior Alonso for an own goal. However, a VAR check found Messi in an offside position when di Maria took the initial shot.
Paraguay finished the game with more possession and shots than La Albiceleste. But Argentina held onto their slender lead to record a second Copa America 2021 win.
As the Argentines secured their place in the quarterfinals with a game to spare, we take a look at the five talking points from the game.
#5 Another day, another nervy win for Argentina
Argentina recorded their second 1-0 win of the 2021 Copa America. For the third game in a row they were dominated by the opposition in terms of possession. Against Paraguay, they had only 43% possession though they recorded more shots on target (four to Paraguay's two) than their opposition.
They started the game brightly with plenty of chances in the first quarter of an hour. But their efforts after the opening goal were wayward and lacked a cutting edge.
Messi, Di Maria and Gomez initially combined well in the final third and caused a lot of trouble for Paraguay. La Albirroja grew into the game in the second half but just like Argentina, they failed to trouble the goalkeeper.
Argentina cannot depend merely on lucky breaks to score goals if they are to progress well into the Copa America knockout stages. Lionel Scaloni will know his men need to be more dominant going forward.
#4 Lionel Messi equals Javier Mascherano's record for most caps with the national team
Lionel Messi donned the Argentina jersey for the 147th time tonight. With his appearance against Paraguay, he became the joint-most capped player for his country. Messi shares the honor with former Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano. With at least two more matches still to come in the ongoing competition, Messi has the chance to add this record to his name as well.
The left-footed forward failed to mark the appearance with a goal or assist. Messi also missed the target from a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area. However, he was crucial in the buildup to the opening goal.
#3 Argentina continue unbeaten run under Lionel Scaloni
Argentina had a great first half and took an early lead, which proved enough for them to record a win here. With this result, they extended their unbeaten run across all competitions to 16 games.
Lionel Scaloni's men have not lost a game since their defeat in the Copa America 2019. While that is a great achievement, most of their recent games have been low-scoring affairs, with six of the last nine games ending with Argentina scoring just one goal.
Argentina were expected to qualify for the quarterfinals but their main test will be in the knockout stages. It remains to be seen whether they can sustain their unbeaten run starting with the quarterfinals.
#2 A physical approach overshadowed the creativity on the pitch as the game progressed
Despite these players making things tick in the final third during the initial stages of the game, both sides resorted to a physical approach as the game progressed. The play was repeatedly disrupted by fouls, making for a stop-start encounter after the first 20 minutes.
A total of 34 fouls being committed in the game, 23 from Paraguay and 11 from Argentina. However, only three yellow cards were awarded across both teams.
The continuous fouling and tackling meant the creative players were not able to display their finesse. There were only a handful of moments where these players looked sharp.
#1 Paraguay made to wait for their first-ever Copa win over Argentina
In all honesty, Paraguay deserved at least a point from this game against Argentina. They were the better side for the most part and were only let done by their own lack of conviction in front of goal.
They recorded more attempts on goal than Argentina but had fewer shots on target. The game marked the 25th occasion when the two sides have met in the Copa America. Paraguay are yet to beat Argentina in these meetings.
La Albirroja are still in contention for a qualification spot but face two decisive games. They take on Chile next, followed by a clash with Uruguay in the next seven days.