Buenos Aires, Argentina – The Mâs Monumental stadium was electric as Argentina, defending World Cup champions, took on Paraguay in a highly-anticipated CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match on Thursday night. The fans were on the edge of their seats as they witnessed the return of their beloved hero, Lionel Messi, who had last graced the field during Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador on September 7.
The crowd’s excitement was justified as the Argentine team delivered a dominant performance, defeating Paraguay 1-0. The early star of the match was Nicolás Otamendi, who scored a thunderous goal from the right side of the box just three minutes into the game.
Otamendi’s early strike set the stage for Argentina’s dominance throughout the match, as they controlled the game with a staggering 75% possession. Paraguay struggled to gain a foothold and managed just one shot on goal throughout the entire game.
Despite Argentina’s early lead, they had several opportunities to extend their advantage. Lautaro Martínez came close to scoring in the 16th minute, but Paraguay’s goalkeeper, Carlos Coronel, made one of his three crucial saves to keep his team in contention.
Nicolás González also had a promising attempt for Argentina in the 45th minute, but the ball narrowly missed the far post by a foot.
The highlight of the night came when Lionel Messi entered the game in the second half, much to the delight of the crowd. Initially, Messi refused to accept the captain’s armband from Otamendi, but he eventually gave in with a smile and proudly wore it. Throughout the second half, Messi came close to scoring on three occasions, but Paraguay’s resilient defense and goalkeeper prevented him from adding to the scoreline.
Thanks to a rock-solid defense, Argentina’s goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez, achieved a remarkable milestone by breaking a national team record, keeping a clean sheet for 609 minutes. He hasn’t conceded a goal for Argentina since the World Cup final against France last December.
Argentina’s journey in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying competition continues next week when they face Peru on October 17.
Highlights of Argentina vs. Paraguay
Nicolás Otamendi’s early goal proved to be the only score of the night in Buenos Aires.
The fans were treated to Messi’s presence on the field as he made his return in the second half.
In the 76th minute, Messi’s corner kick nearly curled into the goal but bounced off the top corner of the post.
In the dying moments of the game, Messi’s free kick hit the left post.
Final Score: Argentina 1, Paraguay 0
During the match, Argentina’s Emiliano Martínez set a new national record for scoreless minutes in goal at 609.
Coronel Denies Messi’s Attempt
Paraguay’s goalkeeper, Carlos Coronel, made a critical save when he blocked Messi’s shot from outside the box (90′).
González Misses Wide
Nicolás González fired a shot from the left side of the box for Argentina, but the ball narrowly missed wide of the goal (88′).
Substitution for Paraguay
Gabriel Ávalos entered the game, replacing Miguel Almirón (86′).
Martínez’s Shot Soars Over Goal
A shot from Lautaro Martínez from the right side of the box sailed over the goal by a couple of feet after a pass from Nahuel Molina (84′).
Substitution for Argentina
Leandro Paredes substituted for Enzo Fernández (79′).
Messi’s Close Call
After an injury delay, Messi’s corner kick curved back towards the goal and deflected off the far left corner of the post, narrowly avoiding a goal (76′).
Injury Delay for Paraguay
Defender Júnior Alonso received medical attention and was taken off the field on a stretcher (74′). Héctor Villalba replaced him.
Substitutions for Paraguay
Antonio Sanabria replaced Adam Bareiro, and Braian Ojeda came into the game for Álvaro Campuzano (71′).
Argentina’s Corner Kicks
Argentina attempted two corner kicks, but neither resulted in a significant shot on goal (67′).
Messi Makes His Entrance
Lionel Messi substituted in for Argentina, replacing Julián Álvarez (53′).
Paraguay’s Missed Shot
Paraguay’s Ramón Sosa sprinted down the right side of the box and fired a shot towards the Argentina goal, but it sailed left of the target (51′).
Yellow Card for Paraguay
Paraguay’s Adam Bareiro received a yellow card for a rough foul on Argentina’s Cristian Romero (50′).
Halftime: Argentina Leads 1-0
Nicolás Otamendi’s early goal in the third minute was the difference after the first half. Argentina had control, with 10 shot attempts compared to Paraguay’s two. Paraguay struggled to maintain possession, with only 26% of the game spent on the attack, managing just two shot attempts.
González’s Narrow Miss
Nicolás González made another attempt from the center of the box. It narrowly missed the target, going just beyond Carlos Coronel’s outstretched hand and a foot wide of the right post of the goal (45′).
Coronel Saves the Day
Argentina launched three shots in a span of five minutes, with two from Alexis Mac Allister and Rodrigo De Paul missing to the right, and the third being saved by Carlos Coronel. The score remained 1-0 (42′).
Argentina’s Header Soars High
Argentina’s Cristian Romero attempted a header from the center of the box, but it was too high and sailed over the Paraguay goal (25′).
Penalties and Free Kicks
Both sides traded penalties and free kicks, with Paraguay’s Ramón Sosa winning a free kick and De Paul earning one for Argentina (23′).
Yellow Card for Paraguay
Paraguay defender Júnior Alonso received a yellow card after a foul on Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister (21′).
Otamendi Opens the Scoring
Argentina took an early lead with Nicolás Otamendi’s powerful goal from the right side of the box, courtesy of a corner and a cross by midfielder Rodrigo De Paul (3′).
Kickoff: Argentina vs. Paraguay
The match officially kicked off in Buenos Aires.
The match was scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. ET, airing via Spanish-language broadcast on Universo and available for streaming on FuboTV.
Argentina Coach’s Perspective
Argentina’s head coach, Lionel Scaloni, emphasized the importance of the game in Buenos Aires for both the squad and fans. However, he also acknowledged the upcoming qualifying games and the need for Messi’s comfort and fitness. Scaloni said, “We have another game in four days against Peru, and it is not so easy to define if he is available. The important thing is that he feels comfortable. What leaves us calm is that if he is not fit, whoever replaces
him will do just as well.”
CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers
The match between Argentina and Paraguay was one of five fixtures on the day, with Colombia vs. Uruguay, Bolivia vs. Ecuador, Chile vs. Peru, and Brazil vs. Venezuela also taking place. Argentina’s upcoming schedule for the World Cup qualifiers includes matches against Peru, Uruguay, and Brazil.
Inter Miami’s Remaining Schedule
Inter Miami has two fixtures left for the 2023 MLS Season, including a match against Charlotte FC on October 18 and another against Charlotte FC on October 21.
Did Messi and Inter Miami Make the MLS Playoffs?
Inter Miami’s 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati marked the end of their chances of making it to the MLS playoffs.
The Argentine squad, announced by the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (AFA), includes a lineup of talented players, with notable names such as Emiliano Martínez, Lionel Messi, and Lautaro Martínez.
Paraguay’s roster for the match against Argentina features a strong team with Carlos Coronel, Gustavo Gómez, and Miguel Almirón, among others.
“Messi Meets America” Docuseries
AppleTV+ offers an exclusive look at Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami with the docuseries “Messi Meets America.” The first four episodes are currently available on Apple TV+, with the final two episodes set to be released later in the season, providing fans with an intimate look at Messi’s transition to American soccer.