Argentina sorely miss Messi in Paraguay defeat

Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:02pm EDT
 
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CORDOBA, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina, lacking the inspiration of injured captain Lionel Messi, suffered a humiliating setback in their World Cup qualifying campaign when they lost 1-0 at home to Paraguay on Tuesday.

Paraguay stunned the twice world champions with a fast break from deep in their own half, Angel Romero playing the ball into the path of Derlis Gonzalez who beat Sergio Romero with a shot inside the near post in the 18th minute.

The defeat left Argentina, who dropped seven points in three successive matches without Messi, in fifth place in the South American group with 16 points, one point ahead of Paraguay who had never won a qualifier in Argentina before.

Argentina are five points behind new leaders Brazil, who won 2-0 in Venezuela, before visiting their arch-rivals in Belo Horizonte on Oct. 10.

Uruguay dropped to second on 20 points with Ecuador third on 17, level with Colombia, who are in fourth on goal difference.

The top four go through to the 2018 finals in Russia while the fifth placed team qualifiers for an intercontinental playoff for another berth.

Argentina could have got back on level terms two minutes into the second half but Paraguay captain Justo Villar saved Sergio Aguero's weak penalty.

"There are no excuses, we played badly," Aguero told reporters. "We've got to pick ourselves up... turn everything around."

Paulo Dybala, who came on in the second half to try and bring more creativity to the team, was also unimpressed.   Continued...

 
Football Soccer - World Cup 2018 Qualifier - Argentina v Paraguay - Mario Kempes Stadium, Cordoba, Argentina - 11/10/16 - Paraguay's players celebrate after defeating Argentina. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci