Lionel Messi's spot-kick saved the day for Argentina but chances of group stage exit loom over the South American giants as they played out a 1-1 draw against Paraguay in a Group-B fixture of the Copa America 2019 on June 19, at Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The Estadio Governador Magalhaes Pinto stadium of Belo Horizonte has been a place where both Argentina and Messi have had good memories with the Little magician scoring a stunner of a goal against Iran in the dying minutes to win it for Argentina in the FIFA World Cup 2014. Argentina after drawing with Paraguay are placed at the bottom of the group table with one point as they have managed a draw and a loss in their two group fixtures of the Copa America.
The match started with the Argentina side desperate for a win playing with a high line defence but as the match gradually progressed the shambolic condition of the defence and the midfield was properly visible. Paraguay were holding their fortress and was attacking the counter which caused a lot of trouble for the Argentine defence due to the miscommunication between the defenders. Paraguay were definitely the better team with a proper gameplan and they were executing it perfectly. On the other hand, the Argentine players looked clueless but caretaker coach Lionel Scaloni did a good job fielding Lautaro Martinez in place of Sergio Aguero who played with some intent and urgency. Lionel Messi was more or less silent throughout the first half as the Barcelona legend was not getting much of the ball due to the inability of the midfielders.
Paraguay drew first blood in the 37th minute of the match with Richard Suarez slotting home from a cross by Miguel Almiron adding to the misery of the travelling Argentine fans. Almiron took a brilliant run down the left flank beating two Argentine defenders who could not keep up with his pace. After getting the break Paraguay started attacking with much more confidence and created problems for the Argentine defence.
The second half started in the same manner with Argentina having more of the ball but no execution as there was no proper delivery in the final third. The gap of communication between the Argentine defence and midfield started to become much more visible. The La Albiceleste were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute of the match as a shot from Lautaro Martinez from a Sergio Aguero cross hit the hand of a Paraguayan defender. The referee after taking assistance from VAR awarded the penalty to Argentina and Lionel Messi seeking redemption for the penalty he missed against Iceland in the 2018 FIFA World Cup slotted it past the goalkeeper. This was Messi's first penalty kick after the earth's biggest football tournament got over.
Just after Argentina levelled the score Paraguay won a penalty due to an unnecessary mistimed tackle from Nicolas Otamendi. The Manchester City defender was the worst player on the pitch, he was slow and clueless throughout the match. But Derlis Gonzalez failed to score from the spot as Argentine goalkeeper saved a weak shot from the former. Argentina tried to break the deadlock till the end of the match desperately but the resilient Paraguayan defence did not let them do so.
Belo Horizonte is the same ground where Brazil was handed a 7-1 defeat by Germany in the Fifa World Cup 2018 adding to the misery of the Brazil fans. On the night of June 19, it added to the agony of the fans of their fierce rivals.
Argentina will next face Qatar on Sunday, June 23 for their final fixture of the group stage in Copa America while Paraguay will meet Group-B leader Colombia on the same day.