Lionel Messi and Argentina survived the Paraguay test, only just. The Albiceleste were given yet another shock when they went behind to their South American rivals in the first half. However, a Messi penalty, followed by an Armani penalty save ensured that Argentina remain in the competition.
Argentina had two players to thank in their latest Copa America draw against Paraguay. While it was Lionel Messi who drew the Albiceleste level from the spot, goalkeeper Franco Armani denied Paraguay the lead moments later from a spot kick.
Earlier, Paraguay had taken the lead in the thirty-seventh minute, when Miguel Almiron’s cross was converted by Richard Sanchez. However, an eventful second half meant that the South American side were denied automatic qualification to the quarterfinals and will now have to wait till matchday three.
Meanwhile, for Argentina, things have become quite complicated. The revamped Copa format sees two of the best three third-placed sides make it into the quarters as well. Argentina, at the moment, are fourth themselves and play invitees Qatar next. Here are the scenarios awaiting them:
Qatar win, Argentina lose
This is simply the worst scenario awaiting Lionel Messi and Co. If Asian champions Qatar beat Argentina in the third and final group stage match, then it is all over for the Albiceleste. They will exit the competition as the bottom-placed team in their group.
Both teams draw
Once again, not the result Argentina will be hoping for. Qatar are third and Argentina fourth, as things stand. A draw means that both sides will retain their current positions even after the third group match. Lionel Messi, as a result, will have another Copa America exit on his hands.
Argentina win; Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador/Japan win
Argentina’s win against Qatar would ensure that they have a fighting chance to stay in the competition. However, that might still not be enough to save them from elimination in the end. If Argentina’s result is matched by Paraguay, Venezuela, and either Ecuador or Japan, the two-time FIFA World Cup champions will exit the competition as the worst third-placed side.
There is a catch, however. Both Ecuador and Japan have still played only one match and are at zero points each. Ecuador play Chile and Japan play Uruguay in their second match. A loss for both would boost Argentina’s chances of qualification due to a superior points haul.
Argentina win; Either Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador/Japan lose
Finally, one scenario that will see Lionel Messi’s men qualify for the next round with ease if they win and either Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador or Japan lose.
If Paraguay lose to Colombia on matchday three and Argentina beat Qatar, they will qualify as runners-up from the group. If Paraguay win against Colombia and either Venezuela, Ecuador or Japan lose, Argentina will qualify as one of the two best runners-up.