Paraguay and Argentina delivered an intense match at Mineirao, but neither side was able to top the other. Goals from Richard Sanchez and Lionel Messi structured a 1-1 draw that doesn’t help either side on their quest to secure a spot in the knockout stages.
Cagey, ineffectual start to the match
Neither side looked comfortable over the Mineirao’s grass, as evidenced by the fact that neither squad created a clear scoring chance in the first 15 minutes. The beginning of the match was cagey, and it seemed neither side was finding spaces in the opposing final third. The biggest “moment” early on was the injury sustained by Derlis Gonzalez, although the attacking midfielder recovered following a cut on his forehead and remained on the game.
However, Argentina took control of the match starting the 18th minute and La Albiceleste moved the lines forward and began playing near Roberto Fernandez’s goal. However, they lacked sharpness in the final meters and the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Giovani Lo Celso and Roberto Pereyra couldn’t muster anything even remotely dangerous.
Paraguay’s late wake up enough to grab the lead
The first real scoring chance came in the 29th minute and it was for Paraguay. Derlis Gonzalez charged down the right flank and sneaked his way into the box, but his shot came wide following a deflection off Nicolas Tagliafico. Gustavo Gomez won in the air following the subsequent play and Gonzalez once again ended in a good position to score, but his effort went wide.
It seemed things would end scoreless at the break, but Sanchez had other plans. The central midfielder came out of nowhere and blasted a right-footed shot following a cross from Miguel Almiron that went out of Franco Armani’s reach. Argentina couldn’t wake up following that strike and in fact, Paraguay looked closer to add another goal during the remainder of the initial 45 minutes. All things considered; the first half ended with a surprising 1-0 lead for Los Guaranies.
Messi steals the show after the break for Argentina
Argentina started the second half with a different approach and a substitution, as Sergio Aguero replaced an incumbent Roberto Pereyra. The move paid off since Argentina quickly equalized with a well-taken penalty from Messi, although the play had several question marks around it since many experts believe that shouldn’t have been called. Wilton Sampaio called stood, however, and the FC Barcelona star buried the ball past Fernandez to even things up.
Paraguay could have recovered their lead when Otamendi committed a penalty of his own in the 62nd minute. The Manchester City centre-back made a harsh, coming-from-behind challenge over Gonzalez, but Armani denied the playmaker’s attempt from the spot. That miss lifted Argentina’s spirit and Lautaro Martinez could have scored the go-ahead goal, but his close-range header in the 65th minute went over the crossbar.
Argentina tried hard, but they couldn’t complete the comeback
Argentina sent Angel Di Maria onto the pitch looking to spark things up in the final third, but the PSG winger once again struggled wearing his country’s shirt. Paraguay decided to sit back and play on the counter, perhaps knowing the draw would still allow them to depend on themselves in the final match of the group stage.
As a result, La Albiceleste monopolized the possession and the scoring opportunities in the final 20 minutes of action. Aguero and Messi took a prominent role in the build up of play, but the lack of spaces certainly hurt their chances to create chances. In fact, Paraguay came closer to score in the 84th minute with a header from close range, but the play was ruled out due to a previous offside.
Argentina had several changes down the stretch, but they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. The game ended with a 1-1 draw, and now Argentina must battle in their final group-stage match against Qatar next week. Meanwhile, Paraguay will play against Colombia and they have their chances to reach the next stage intact.
Argentina: Armani (6); Casco (4), Pezzella (6), Otamendi (4), Tagliafico (5); Pereyra (4) (Agüero (6), 46’), Lo Celso (6), Paredes (5), De Paul (5) (Suarez (-), 87’); Messi (7), Martinez (5) (Di Maria (4), 67’)
Paraguay: Fernandez (6); Piris (5), Gomez (5), Alonso (6), Arzamendia (5); Sanchez (6), R. Rojas (5); Gonzalez (5) (Escobar (-), 90’), Almiron (6) (Ortiz (-), 87’), M. Rojas (4); Santander (5) (Romero (-), 72’)
Goals: Sanchez (0-1, 37’), Messi (1-1, 57’, PK)
Referee: Wilton Sampaio (BRA)
Yellow cards: Armani, Tagliafico, Otamendi (ARG), Gomez. R. Rojas, Piris (PAR)
Red cards: None
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