On Thursday, the reigning world champions Argentina achieved a hard-fought 1-0 victory over a dogged Paraguay squad, giving them a perfect record of three wins out of three in South American World Cup qualifying.
A goal scored by Nicolas Otamendi in the third minute was enough for the squad coached by Lionel Scaloni to win. Lionel Messi came off the bench in the second half and twice hit the crossbar after coming on as a substitute.
In Barranquilla, Uruguay and Colombia battled back to a 2-2 tie thanks to a penalty kick from stoppage time scored by Darwin Nunez. Meanwhile, Ecuador earned their first points of the tournament with a last-gasp 2-1 triumph over Bolivia.
Messi’s battle to regain full health unavoidably dominated the build-up to Argentina’s bid to keep their perfect record intact, and the seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or started the game on the bench. Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez led Argentina’s attack instead. Messi won the Ballon d’Or seven times.
However, it was the experienced defender Otamandi who gave the moment of attacking inspiration by responding to a corner kick taken by Rodrigo De Paul with a superb volley at the back post.
Three minutes before halftime, Atletico Madrid midfielder De Paul came close to increasing the lead when he hit the post. Moments later, Nicolas Gonzalez unleashed a shot that was near but didn’t quite make it.
In the 53rd minute, Messi came in for Alvarez as Scaloni attempted to break down a disciplined and well-organized Paraguay team, but the Paraguayan goalpost was able to thwart their talisman.
On October 12, 2023, Argentina’s defender Nicolas Otamendi (third from the left) celebrates with his teammates at the Mas Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires after scoring the game-winning goal in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Paraguay. The match took place in preparation for the World Cup. IMAGE BY: AFP
After winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Messi curled his effort against the same post that had earlier been struck by an inswinging corner from the right that came dangerously close to going in.
After establishing a 2-1 lead in the 52nd minute thanks to Mateus Uribe’s goal, Colombia paid the price for missing a number of opportunities to put an end to the contest and put the match out of reach.
In the 35th minute, James Rodriguez gave Colombia the lead when he brought down a cross from Santiago Arias with his right foot and then drilled the ball home with his left.
Just one minute after the game was restarted, Uruguay tied the score when Mathias Olivera was given too much space to score a header off a corner kick taken by Nicolas de la Cruz.
However, Colombia were able to regain the lead when Luis Diaz cut inside from the left wing and feed Rafael Borre. Borre then made a low cross, and Uribe was able to finish off the rebound.
Then, Luis Diaz had a golden opportunity to score a third goal, but he squandered it when he was sent through on a one-on-one opportunity with the custodian, but he blasted his shot well over the crossbar.
Rodriguez witnessed a low shot from inside the box hit the post, and one minute later, Jhon Arias fed him the ball, and he shot it in the direction of the bar.
Camilo Vargas, the custodian for Colombia, rushed off his line and clashed with Maximiliano Araujo, which allowed Uruguay to salvage a draw from the match.
Liverpool striker Nunez held his composure to convert the penalty and give Marcelo Bielsa’s team a valuable point. Vargas was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for his play.
The 16-year-old Ecuadorean prodigy Kendry Paez became the youngest player to score in a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier when he put his team ahead against Bolivia at La Paz with a composed finish in the 45th minute. The match was a qualification match for the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
Rodrigo Ramallo scored an excellent goal for Bolivia with a shot on the turn, but Ecuador’s Kevin Rodriguez scored the game-winning goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time, leaving Bolivia without a point in the standings.
Brazil, who have already won their first two games, will play Venezeula later on Thursday, while Chile will play Peru. Brazil is hoping to continue their winning start, since they have already won their first two games.