James CookeArgentina vs Paraguay, Thursday June 20th, 01:30, Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto. Argentina need to get their Copa America back on track after an opening game defeat to Colombia, while Paraguay are reeling from giving up a two-goal lead against Qatar.
The eternal question of how Argentina get the best out of Lionel Messi evidently still hasn’t been answered after Lionel Scaloni’s side were beaten 2-0 by Colombia in their opening Copa America fixture. It’s not that Colombia don’t have talented, dangerous players of their own – but Argentina, with Messi, Sergio Aguero, Giovani Lo Celso and more, should have done better.
Instead, it was Colombia celebrating, and Argentina’s tournament left hanging by a thread after only one game. La Albiceleste are bottom of Group B and can’t really afford any more dropped points. They should beat Qatar and Paraguay comfortably, but with Argentina, nothing is ever guaranteed.
Paraguay go into the fixture kicking themselves. With little more than 30 minutes to play, Eduardo Berizzo’s side were two goals clear against Qatar and on their way to three points that would give them a good chance of reaching the knockout rounds. Instead, by the final whistle, it was a point apiece after two goals in 10 minutes.
La Albirroja will now probably need to beat Colombia in their final group game if they’re to get one of the top two group places and guarantee a knockout round place, and need a point from Argentina too. Veteran Oscar Cardozo remains a goal threat but the likes of Miguel Almiron and Derlis Gonzalez need to show they can carry the national team when Cardozo steps back, and there’s no time like the present.
Newcastle midfielder Almiron is indeed the creative hub of the team, and the player responsible for teeing up the likes of Cardozo and Gonzalez. Paraguay will need to take control of the midfield if they’re to get three points and either cut off the supply line to Messi, or make it so Messi has to drop deeper and deeper to get on the ball, keeping him away from goal.
But Messi should come to the fore – there’s only so long he and Aguero can be kept quiet. One or both should get on the score sheet in a 2-0 Argentina win.
Betting sites will have noticed how Argentina toiled against Colombia – and how Paraguay collapsed against Qatar. It might take time, but Argentina’s extra pedigree should win out. A half time draw, Argentina full time win is 11/4 at 10Bet.
Even with three of the most dangerous forwards in football – Messi, Aguero and Paulo Dybala, who didn’t even get off the bench against Colombia – Argentina aren’t always the goal-laden side you’d expect. They drew a blank last time out and since they netted three against France in the World Cup, they’ve only scored more than twice against relative minnows Guatemala, Iraq and Nicaragua. With that in mind, 888Sport have it 9/10 that the game has under 2.5 goals.
Head to Head
Paraguay won the last time the two nations met – in World Cup qualification in 2016, when Gonzalez scored the only goal of the game.
Argentina’s last win was a 6-1 hammering in the 2015 Copa America, with goals from Marco Rojo, Javier Pastore, two for Angel Di Maria and Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain with one each.
The first meeting between Argentina and Paraguay came in 1919 – Argentina won 5-1.
In total there’ve been 106 meetings between the countries, with 58 wins for Argentina, 16 for Paraguay and 32 draws.
Argentina hosted the first edition of the Copa America’s forerunner, the South America Championship, in 1916 and won their first tournament in 1921. They’ve won the tournament 14 times, but not since 1993.
Paraguay have won two South American Championships/Copa Americas, but not since 1979.
Aspiring football journalist who realised he could put his vast knowledge towards gambling and making some money. With years spent on Football Manager, his boyhood obsession has carried over into his adult life and he's proven his mum that all that time spent playing a game wasn't to be wasted. A European football expert, James writes about anything on the continent and has began expanding his knowledge to other leagues in South America, Asia and the USA.