Lionel Messi and Argentina have booked a place in the Copa América quarterfinals with a game to spare thanks to another narrow 1-0 win in Brasília, this time over Paraguay. Messi played all 90 minutes, and Sergio Agüero started and had a 60-minute cameo.
Just like they did against Uruguay last Friday, Argentina started well with a very attacking lineup designed to press high up the pitch and cause problems with their quality and movement. Agüero had the first chance but missed it, and then Messi, Di María and Papu Gómez combined to score a beautiful opening goal.
And just like they did against Uruguay, Argentina retreated and gave their opponents the ball, looking to stay solid at the back and bet that Paraguay would lack the quality in front. That is pretty much how the rest of the game unfolded, and Argentina almost went into the half with a two-goal lead but a Junior Alonso own goal was disallowed for a Messi offside.
Paraguay came out with plenty of intensity in the second half, but their lack of true quality showed and Emi Martínez was never truly troubled in the Argentina goal. The Albiceleste was slow and lacked the finishing touch in the counter attack in the second half, and Messi had the only two shots on target for them.
The final whistle came to end a routine win for Argentina, who could have played much better but got all three points which was the goal coming into the game, especially with all the rotations made by Lionel Scaloni.
Argentina now have a full week to rest, and are back in action for the group stage finale next Monday against Bolivia needing only a point to finish in the top two — and avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals.