Argentina have qualified for the Copa America 2021 quarterfinals after a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Tuesday early morning. With this match, Lionel Messi has equaled former teammate Javier Mascherano for the most 147 appearances for Argentina. Albiceleste had a difficult time winning their third match in the group stage. However, they emerged victorious in the end because of their defense's tenacity. Argentina were able to keep their unbeaten run intact as they have not lost a single match since the semifinal encounter against Brazil in 2019. Lionel Messi's milestone and the results of Group 'A' are discussed in this article.
Match Report: Argentina vs Paraguay
Prior to this match, Lionel Messi had appeared in 146 international matches for Argentina. Now, Messi has made the most appearances for Argentina (147). Previously, defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano played an equal number of matches for the Albiceleste, who last appeared for the national side in the 2018 world cup final against Germany.
Messi has 73 goals in 147 appearances for Argentina, which is the 12th highest in the history of world football. Iran's Ali Daei (109) and Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (107) have scored the most goals in international competition. Furthermore, Malaysia's Soh Chin Ann is the only footballer to have appeared in over 200 international games (224).
Despite the fact that Messi did not score in the match against Paraguay, he was instrumental in setting up the game's lone goal.
At the beginning of the contest, Messi made a fantastic move down the attacking half before passing the ball to Angel Di Maria. Di Maria then delicately stretched the ball to Alejandro Gomez from just outside the D-box. Gomez received the ball and flicked it to the right post corner, scoring the game's only goal in the 10th minute.
Argentina embraced a more defensive approach after taking a 1-0 lead early in the game. On the other hand, Paraguay became desperate to score.
They continued to attack the Argentine defense, especially in the second half. However, a solid Argentine defensive technique prevented them from scoring. The Paraguayans would have qualified for the quarter-finals if they could win the match.
Paraguay failed to score despite having the ball possession considerably more than Argentina as they had 57 percent of the ball possession, while Argentina had 43 percent in the match.
Meanwhile, typical South American passing football was absent in Argentina's game plan, as it had been in the previous two encounters. Argentina have adopted a more European style of play. But two experienced footballers, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria showed a few dazzling displays in the match.
Lionel Scaloni has been working hard to improve the defensive line since taking over as coach of Argentina's national team. Argentina haven't lost in any of their last 16 matches under his management.
Though Argentina seem incapable to attack effectively due to their weakness in the midfield position. They try to attack with two wings, but it hasn't worked out well so far. Argentina will be in big trouble against a strong team like Brazil if they can't address this problem in the knockout round.
In group 'A', the match between Chile and Uruguay ended in a draw. Uruguay have yet to completely emerge as one of the title contenders for the Copa America 2021. That's why Uruguay will be looking to recapture their best form in their last two group stage matches against Paraguay and Bolivia.
Argentina are currently leading the Group 'A' with two wins and one draw in three games. On the other hand, Chili are in the second position with 5 points. While Paraguay are in third place with three points and Uruguay are in fourth place with one point. Bolivia have yet to win a match, but they may move up to fourth place if they beat Uruguay in their next encounter. So, the final few group stage matches of Copa America 2021 could be intriguing.