Argentina qualified for the Copa America quarter-finals after ending their drought against Paraguay with a 1-0 victory.
Not since the 2015 Copa had Argentina tasted a win over Paraguay – a run of four consecutive matches – but La Albiceleste snapped that winless streak thanks to Papu Gomez on Monday.
Gomez scored the winner in the 10th minute, scooping an effort over onrushing Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva, for his second goal from just his sixth international appearance.
As Lionel Messi equalled the record for most Argentina appearances, Lionel Scaloni’s men extended their unbeaten streak to 16 games in Brasilia.
Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero were named in the starting XI for the first time during this year’s Copa, and the veteran Argentina pair were heavily involved early.
Aguero had a great chance to put Argentina ahead in the seventh minute after some woeful defending saw the ball fall to his feet inside the six-yard box, however, the Barcelona recruit’s reactive effort went just over the crossbar.
Argentina did break the deadlock three minutes later via Gomez, who beat the offside trap and finished delicately over Silva after Di Maria cut a ball perfectly to the Sevilla star.
Paraguay ended the half with more possession – 55.2 per cent to 44.8 per cent – as Argentina dropped off after scoring the opening goal.
Argentina did find the back of the net for a second time on the stroke of half-time, wheeling away in celebration after Gomez’s cross was inadvertently put into his own net by Paraguay defender Junior Alonso but it was ruled offside.
There was a promising spell of sustained pressure from Paraguay, who had not lost to Argentina in six years, to start the second half.
Paraguay continued to dictate proceedings without creating anything meaningful as Argentina booked their spot in the knockout phase in pursuit of a first major title since winning the 1993 Copa America.
What does it mean? Argentina roll on
Argentina are a tough team to beat at the moment. Not since the 2019 Copa America have La Albiceleste tasted defeat – a run of 16 consecutive matches without a loss. They have kept seven clean sheets during that run.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner celebrated another milestone on Monday, equalling Javier Mascherano for the most senior Argentina appearances – 147. Messi is already the country’s all-time leading scorer (73).
Paraguay enjoyed more possession and a better passing accuracy, but it did not translate to anything meaningful up front. Eduardo Berizzo’s side ended the contest without a shot on target.
Argentina will conclude their Group A campaign against winless Bolivia in Cuiaba on Monday, while Paraguay meet Uruguay on the same day.
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