Last night in Asunsion, Argentina finally ensured their World Cup Qualification with an emphatic victory over Paraguay. Not usually the happiest of hunting grounds, La Seleccion have not won here in World Cup Qualification since 1997, but that record was smashed in spectacular fashion. Two penalties from Captain, Lionel Messi, either side of Sergio Aguero’s fine goal were later added to by Angel Di Maria and substitute, Maxi Rodriguez and although the familiar defensive frailties allowed Paraguay to score twice the potent attacking threat was in full force. READ MORE FOR THE MATCH REPORT AND WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS….
Missing several players and up against a Paraguay side that had just thumped Bolivia by four and drawn their friendly with Germany this did not appear such an easy task on paper. However, it took just 12 minutes for Argentina’s pace on the attack to expose the Paraguayan defence and create the opening goal. Di Maria found Sergio Aguero and his touch took him away from goalkeeper, Roberto Fernandez, who clumsily clattered into the Manchester City star. Captain Lionel Messi stepped up to take the penalty and sent Fernandez the wrong way, meaning that he overtook Hernan Crespo as Argentina’s second highest scorer but still some way of the great Gabriel Batistuta.
The lead didn’t last long though as a cross from the left was flicked at the near post by Jose Nuñez and allowed to bobble into Sergio Romero’s goal. Fabricio Coloccini could perhaps have been tighter but nonetheless it should have been a routine save for the Monaco stopper.
These kind of defensive lapses will need to be ironed out if Argentina hope to go all the way in Brazil. However, as usual, magic at the other end of the pitch bailed them out. Once again the combination of Messi and Aguero proved too much. Messi played the ball into the path of Aguero, who took a touch before rifling a left footed half volley back across goal.
Despite Argentina looking the more likely to score with the game at 2-1 Paraguay would have still felt like they were in with a chance. It took just 8 minutes of the second half for those hopes to be dashed. The returning Fernando Gago released the pacy Angel Di Maria and he made no mistake in front of goal, casually passing the ball into the corner of the net. Gago, in his understated way, once again proved what a key figure he is in the midfield.
Shortly after, Argentina and Messi were gifted a fourth. With the ball bouncing around Messi’s head and even a hint of handball from the diminutive Ballon D’Or winner there didn’t seem like much of an appeal when he went to ground. However, the referee pointed to the spot and Messi once again made no mistake, leaving him joint top scorer with Uruguay’s Luis Suarez with 10 in this campiagn.
Roque Santa Cruz did manage a consolation with a few minutes remaining when he tapped in from close range but there was still time for Argentina to add another as substitute, Maxi Rodriguez came on and finished off a nice passing move.
So with qualification now certain, Argentina must now prepare for the main event next summer. There are still question marks over the side defensively but at times the attacking play is breathtaking and they will be a threat in Brasil.