Argentina player ratings v Paraguay: Messi & Armani save La Albiceleste

The result was better than against Colombia, the performance was perhaps not as a disjointed Argentina once again failed to impress. A tale of two penalties at either end of the pitch leave La Albiceleste fighting for a place in the quarter-final on Sunday with no more margin for error.

Franco Armani – 7

Another shaky first half display, particularly with the ball at his feet, culminated in Franco Armani being cautioned for a foul Derlis González for which Paraguay wanted to see red. However, the River Plate number one’s superb penalty stop late on earned Argentina a point and with it, hopes of progressing are still intact.

Milton Casco – 4

Brought in to replace Renzo Saravia, there was little to suggest that Argentina’s problems at right-back will be solved by Milton Casco. The right-footed defender usually operates on the left and failing to make much of an impression getting forward, Casco was burned by the pace of Miguel Almirón for Paraguay’s goal.

Germán Pezzella – 5

On the whole Germán Pezzella dealt with any threat posed by Federico Santander but Argentina rarely looked comfortable. Almirón and Derlis González running at the defence caused problems and it was here that Pezzella and the back four looked vulnerable.

Nicolás Otamendi – 3

One of Nicolás Otamendi’s worst performances for Argentina in recent memory, the Manchester City defender almost cost La Albiceleste any hope of progression. An utterly mindless tackle on González gave away the penalty that thankfully Armani saved and Otamendi was perhaps fortunate not to see red when clumsily bringing down Almirón on the counter later on.

Nicolás Tagliafico – 5

Without making any glaring errors, Nicolás Tagliafico struggled at times with Paraguay’s pace in the space behind him and the Ajax left-back was unable to contribute much going forward.

Roberto Pereyra – 3

Brought in to try and balance the midfield and hauled off at half time tells you how successful Lionel Scaloni’s attempt to reshuffle things went. Roberto Pereyra’s only lasting impression from his 45 minute spell was getting outpaced by Almirón down the wing as Paraguay took the lead.

Leandro Paredes – 5

Without Guido Rodríguez or another defensive midfielder, Leandro Paredes was tasked with being the anchor at the base of midfield and at times it was a role simply too much for the 24-year-old. Despite making more passes than any other player, Paredes was unable to build possession and at times failed to protect the defence.

Giovani Lo Celso – 5

Scaloni admitted that pushing Giovani Lo Celso out to the right against Colombia was an error but during the first half in a supposedly more comfortable position, the playmaker was unable to have any impact. There was a little improvement after the break but it was still difficult with Argentina lacking any real shape.

Rodrigo de Paul – 4

A bright appearance against Colombia earned Rodrigo de Paul a start against Paraguay but the Udinese wideman was unable to reproduce that performance. Lacking the belief it appeared to really make a change out wide, De Paul contributed little and aside from his lofted pass toward Agüero in the build-up to the goal, it was a forgettable evening.

Lionel Messi – 7

Somethings never change and so the sight of Lionel Messi dropping deeper and deeper to try and initiate attacks was no surprise. Always outnumbered and fouled numerous times, Messi wasn’t at his best and two free-kick attempts were tame. However, for the brief period that two strikers were ahead, Messi found some space to have influence and scoring the vital penalty, the captain kept Argentina in the tournament.

Lautaro Martínez – 6

Once again the Argentina number nine was left with nothing to feed on and just as it was for Sergio Agüero  against Colombia it was a frustrating first 45 minutes for Lautaro Martínez. Once joined by Agüero the game changed and Martínez forced the penalty with his shot that crashed against the bar via the arm of Ivan Piris. The substitution of the young striker soon after for Angel Di Maria was inexplicable.

Substitutes

Sergio Agüero – 6

A vital impact off the bench, Sergio Agüero replacing Roberto Pereyra changed the game and it was the Manchester City striker who peeled off at the back post to set up Martínez for the chance that led to the penalty. Scaloni then opting to take off the youngster saw Agüero fall back into a similar situation as was seen against Colombia but that is through no fault of the player.

Ángel Di María – 4

Replacing Lautaro Martínez just when Argentina were on top felt like a no-win situation for Ángel Di María but short on confidence, El Fideo did little to silence his critics.

Matías Suárez – Lionel Scaloni remains a big admirer of Matías Suárez but replacing Rodrigo de Paul late on there was no time for an impact.

Coach

Lionel Scaloni – 3

Changed things around once again to begin with and failed to make a difference during a woeful first half. The introduction of Agüero helped Argentina but no sooner did La Albiceleste get level, Scaloni made the wrong change. Even if Lautaro were injured, surely Suárez and not Di Maria was the change. The novice coach is rapidly being found to be well out of his depth.

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