Sport

Argentina see off Paraguay as Uruguay earn Copa América draw with Chile

Papu Gómez scored in the 10th minute as Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 and secured their place in the Copa América knockout stage.

The result at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia moved Argentina to the top of Group A with seven points from three matches. The game also gave Lionel Messi a record 147th cap for the national team, equalling the mark of retired defender Javier Mascherano.

Chile, who also advanced to the quarter-finals, are second in the group with five points after the 1-1 draw with Uruguay. Paraguay have three points, followed by Uruguay (1) and Bolivia (0).

Argentina’s captain Messi, seeking his first major title with the national team, had to work with a side impacted by six changes in the starting lineup. Defenders Germán Pezzella and Nicolás Tagliafico, midfielders Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes, and forwards Sergio Agüero and Ángel di Maria, started. Nicolás Otamendi, Marcos Acuña, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso, Lautaro Martínez and Nico González were left out of the XI.

The changes did not stop Argentina from starting strongly. Early in the game, Messi found Di María on the right, and the veteran winger eluded the Paraguayan defence with an assist to Gómez. The striker lifted a shot over Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva.

Argentina forced Silva to make important saves in the first half but the energy of the team waned in the second half, as it has in several recent matches.

Messi had his least impressive performance of the tournament so far but still received praise from the previous holder of the record for most matches played for Argentina. “No one better than you to keep making the legend grow and be the player with most caps for our dear national team,” Mascherano posted on Instagram. “No one represents us better in the world.”

Argentina’s last group-stage match will be on Monday against Bolivia. Paraguay will take on Chile on Thursday. The top four in each five-team group will advance.

Elsewhere in the group, Uruguay ended a goal drought stretching back to November 2020 but needed an own goal from Arturo Vidal to rescue a point against Chile.

Chile took the lead midway through the first half in Cuiabá, with Eduardo Vargas playing a nice one-two with Ben Brereton before firing an unstoppable shot past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Following a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Argentina in their first game, Uruguay could not afford a second consecutive defeat. Óscar Tabárez’s team improved after the break and were level in the 66th minute. Matías Vecino flicked on a corner and as Luis Suárez grappled with Vidal, the ball was knocked into the roof of the net.

The goal was first given to Suárez but then classed as an own goal. Vidal was replaced moments later after complaining he had been fouled by his former Barcelona teammate. Uruguay finished the stronger with Suárez and Edinson Cavani both coming close, but the points were shared. There had been controversy ahead of the game, with Chile admitting some of their players – including Vidal – had breached the bubble set up to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Sunday’s matches in Group B saw Colombia slip to an unexpected 2-1 defeat to Peru while Ronald Hernández’s injury-time goal earned Venezuela a point in their 2-2 draw with Ecuador.