Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria embrace after their 1-0 victory over Paraguay on Monday. EPA/Joedson Alves
Argentina qualified for the Copa America quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Monday, in a game marked by Lionel Messi’s record-tying 147th appearance for Argentina.
Argentina’s 1-0 win in Brasilia was their second in a row in this competition, and their 16th match without a loss since falling in the Copa America quarterfinal in 2019.
It gives them seven points from three games, putting them two points ahead of Chile, four points ahead of Paraguay, and six points ahead of Uruguay in Group A.
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With four of the five teams qualifying for the last eight, Argentina is certain to advance. Bolivia is in last place with no points from two games.
“We’re through, but we have to keep developing,” German Pezzella, a defender, remarked. “We had a wonderful first half; our intensity wasn’t quite as high in the second, but they didn’t have many opportunities to score.”
Paraguay had never beaten Argentina in the Copa America over 90 minutes, a streak spanning 25 games, and they were up against it as early as the 10th minute when Argentina took the lead.
Alejandro Gomez dinked the ball over the diving goalie after receiving a lovely assist from Angel Di Maria.
“Angel’s pass was fantastic,” Gomez added. “It was only a matter of getting my foot under it and putting it away.”
On the stroke of half-time, Argentina thought they had a second goal when Junior Alonso diverted a cross into his own net, but the score was called out by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
In a reshuffled second half, Paraguay came out on top, with Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron proving to be a constant threat on the left wing.
Despite having the majority of possession, they were unable to convert it into chances, and now face two difficult games against Chile and Uruguay.
Sergio Aguero earned his first international start since November 2019, but he went largely unnoticed up front, with Di Maria and Messi standing out.
Messi was a busy presence in the Paraguayan half on the night he equaled Javier Mascherano’s record of 147 appearances in the blue and white shirt.
Both he and Di Maria got fouls from their opponents, who totaled 23 to Argentina’s 11 fouls.