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. Lionel Messi remains Argentina’s best hope of glory even in his twilight
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, 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.
They started with a commendable point in a tough opening game against a heavily-fancied Argentina side, having fallen behind to an eye-catching free kick from Lionel Messi.
Martin Lasarte’s won a penalty on the hour mark, and Emiliano Martinez saved Arturo Vidal’s effort from the spot, but the keeper was powerless to prevent Eduardo Vargas pouncing on the rebound to fire in and draw his side level, with the game finishing 1-1.
They then went on to defeat Bolivia 1-0 in the following game, as Ben Brereton netted the only goal of the match in the 10th minute.
Most recently, La Roja earned another valuable point, drawing 1-1 with a strong Uruguay outfit, as Luis Suarez equalised on the hour mark for their opponents after Vargas fired his side into the lead in the first half.
Having navigated their way through clashes with the two most formidable sides in their group, accumulating five points along the way, Lasarte’s men have all but confirmed their deserved progression from the group.
They will now look to finish the group in a positive manner to achieve as high of a finish as possible, as La Roja look to gain a favourable quarter-final draw.