Qualification for the 2022 World Cup resumes in South America this international break with Argentina looking to consolidate their position in the automatic places when they travel to Paraguay on Friday at 12am (UK time).
After nine matches (or eight apiece in the case of Argentina and Brazil) the standings for CONMEBOL’s qualification table are starting to take shape. In the context of Friday’s meeting in Asuncion, Argentina are currently second, and Paraguay are sixth, just two points adrift of fourth.
How to live stream Paraguay vs Argentina online:
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Scoreline prediction: Paraguay 1-3 Argentina
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Paraguay vs Argentina build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Paraguay welcome the Copa America champions to the Estadio Defensores del Chaco looking to cause an upset and help their cause to make the qualification places. Eduardo Berizzo has overseen the most draws (five) of any manager in these World Cup Qualifiers, and would happily take a point against arguably the strongest nation in South America (alongside Brazil). Two wins have kept them in the qualification conversation, and this month could define their Qatar 2022 hopes.
For Lionel Scaloni’s men, they currently find themselves second and with a game in hand (owing to their match with Brazil being suspended in bizarre circumstances). They, much like current table-toppers Brazil, are still unbeaten after eight international matches and will fancy their chances of extending that run against a nation they have only ever lost three times to, though one of those did come in the qualifiers for the previous World Cup.
- Paraguay (vs Venezuela): Silva; Rojas, Balbuena, Alonso, D Martinez; H Martinez, Villasanti, Kaku, O Romero, A Romero; Amarilla.
- Argentina (vs Bolivia): Musso; Molina, Pezzella, Otamendi, Acuna; Di Maria, De Paul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez.
Despite the controversy surrounding their call-ups in the previous international break, Premier League trio Emi Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso have all been drafted in once more by Scaloni even though the country remains on the UK’s red travel list. As of the Friday just gone, all three players are allowed to enter Argentina if they are fully vaccinated and return a negative Covid test, but they must quarantine for 10 days upon their return to the UK.
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Player to watch: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Rarely a dull moment follows the double-jointed genius, who scored a scintillating hat-trick in his last match for Argentina against Bolivia, which moved him just one goal shy of 80 for his nation. Unfortunately for his new club, PSG, that international form has not yet translated to club football. The 34-year-old is yet to open his Ligue 1 account, recently hitting the post against Rennes with a stellar free-kick attempt, but failing to breach the net thus far. It’s unusual territory for the sport’s most prolific goal-getter over the past 15 years of so, but he did offer a glimpse of what fans can expect once he finds his feet, netting a goal of elite quality in PSG’s recent Champions League win over Man City. It was a trademark run and strike from the otherworldly phenom, and has just whet the appetite of a fanbase craving some Messi magic. Whatever happens in France, Messi usually delivers for Argentina, so expect more of the same this month for La Albiceleste.
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