Sunday, June 14, 2015

Super Barrios - Paraguay pull one out of the hat late

On the third day of the Copa América, Group B played their first games. Uruguay beat Jamaica 1-0, the game itself was not particularly pretty. Cristian Rodríguez scored the winner in the 52nd minute. The game I am going to write about in detail will be Argentina vs Paraguay though.

Inevitably, some big names had no place in Argentina’s starting 11, and this time it was Carlos Tevez as well as rightback Pablo Zabaleta, who found themselves on the bench. Here are the lineups in full:

Argentina: Romero – Roncaglia, Garay, Otamendi, Rojo – Banega, Mascherano – Pastore – Messi, Agüero, di María.

Paraguay: Silva – M. Cáceres, da Silva, Aguilar, Samudio – V. Cáceres, Ortigoza, Ortiz – Bobadilla, Santa Cruz, Valdez.

1st half. We did not have to wait too long for the first half chance, Valencia’s Otamendi moved forward for a set piece and headed the ball (pretty far) over the crossbar. Fireworks like in the early stages of Chile’s opener were not really expected and did not happen either, since Argentina is a team that first of all relies on their defense as seen previously at the 2014 World Cup. Despite that, Paraguay is certainly the outsider in this match and any point for them would count as success. Back to the game, and Argentina has the ball almost all the time, but seems clueless with it so far, the only times it ever gets a bit dangerous remain set pieces. As you see so many times all season long, Messi has tons of opposition players around him. Still he ended up with the biggest chance of the game in the 18th when he redirected a Mascherano shot just wide.

Not much to see from 2011’s surprise second Paraguay, a lot of misplaced passes in their own half does not help their course. The Bundesliga striking trio (or former in Santa Cruz’ case) hangs in the air. Logically, Argentina just kept trying to do their thing, a low shot from Agüero was easily saved by Silva. Two minutes later, Kun did it better, taking advantage of a ridiculously poor back pass right into his run by Samudio and he had no trouble walking around the keeper and putting it into the back of the net, 1:0 (29’).

Only six minutes later, Argentina made it 2-0, a run from di Maria ended in an awful dive and a penalty, which was converted by Messi. The way this match has been going, this could game over for Paraguay already. The Albiceleste should have gotten a real penalty in the 40th when Messi was brought down, this time though for some reason the referee’s whistle kept quiet. The score remained until halftime and we have to analyze that we have just seen a pretty bad half of football with a dreadful Paraguay and a not much better Argentina who lead because of an individual defensive blackout and a penalty gift by the referee.

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Copa start made easy: Agüero gets the opening goal against Paraguay served on a silver platter. It was not enough for the win though.

2nd half. What would the reaction to those 45 minutes be by Paraguay? There was none. They were still as bad as previously and, with all respect to their opponent today, if this is their ceiling, then Jamaica will be a bigger challenge for them than expected.

In the meantime, Argentina tried to extend their lead, Messi’s shot was saved by Silva after he played a beautiful one-two with Javier Pastore. Just as Paraguay looked like falling asleep an hour into the game, they suddenly woke up out of nowhere, Nelson Valdez had his shot saved by Romero, his second try was better. An absolute screamer found the top corner and made it 2-1.

On the opposite side the attempt for a quick answer by Lionel Messi went wide after he broke through the defensive line on the edge of the area. Pastore’s great shot was saved brilliantly by Silva, after the following corner Agüero had another go. The only thing you can blame Argentina for in the second half is their bad usage of quality chances. I do not want to take anything away from Paraguay though, who clearly got more offensive ever since scoring their first goal. Victor Cáceres had the chance to level things up, his backheeled ball did not find the target. Chances up and down the field, too many to even include them all in this post.

15 minutes from the end, the Argentines decided to show us their squad depth when they substituted Agüero and Pastore for Tevez and Higuaín. The first action the new guys saw was at the other end, Samudio’s shot was punched over the crossbar. Would have been a nice story for the player who made the horrible mistake that led to the opening goal. The favorite continued to waste excellent chances, and one man made them pay. Lucas Barrios, who came on for Santa Cruz, fired a low shot into the left corner, Romero was without a chance. And really, it was 2-2 after all in the 90th minute.

Paraguay come away with an unexpected point against Argentina, that I would have never seen coming after their first half display. Great for them!


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