In a decisive match for the South American qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, Argentina edged past Paraguay with a lone goal. This win, featuring the presence of Lionel Messi, puts Argentina at the pinnacle of the standings. The match’s main phrase resonates with the exceptional performance and strategic plays that have been the signature style of the Argentine team.
Otamendi’s Acrobatic Finish
Nicolas Otamendi, the seasoned defender, struck the winning goal for the Argentines in the third minute. His acrobatic “on the fly” shot came after a corner kick executed by Atletico Madrid’s midfielder, Rodrigo de Paul. This tactical move, which they had practiced extensively, paid off.
Messi’s Entry and Performance
Interestingly, Argentina’s captain, Lionel Messi, didn’t start the game but was subbed in during the second half. Replacing Julian Alvarez in the 53rd minute, Messi, the 7-time Ballon d’Or winner, showcased his renowned skills but was twice denied by the woodwork. First, with a direct corner kick aimed at the goal and later with a free kick in the dying moments of the match.
Upcoming Matches and Predictions
The next round of qualifiers sees Argentina visiting Peru, while Paraguay will host Bolivia. Given the performance so far and the dynamic strategies employed by coach Lionel Scaloni, fans are eager to witness the next set of matches.
Scaloni’s Perspective on Messi’s Role
Post the 1-0 victory over Paraguay, Scaloni expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance but felt they could have secured a bigger margin. Even in Messi’s absence in the first half, players like Lautaro Martinez and Julian Alvarez displayed commendable play. Discussing Messi’s playing status against Peru, Scaloni emphasized the need to be cautious and avoid risks with their captain. “We played well without Messi, and there are players who can contribute a lot,” he remarked.
An Incident That Raised Eyebrows
During the match, an incident captured attention as Paraguay’s Antonio Sanabria appeared to spit at Argentina’s star, Messi. Although Messi claimed he was unaware of the event during the match, he was informed about it later in the dressing room. On the other hand, Sanabria clarified that while it might look like he spat at Messi in the images, it never happened.
Messi’s Humble Gesture
Highlighting his humility, when Messi entered the field, he asked Otamendi, who was wearing the captain’s armband and had scored the winning goal, to retain the band. However, in a mutual show of respect, Otamendi handed it back to Messi.
With this victory, Argentina boasts a perfect score in the qualifiers, accumulating 9 points. This places them two points ahead of their nearest competitor, Brazil. As the journey to the 2026 World Cup continues, the spotlight remains firmly on these teams, anticipating more thrilling encounters