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Messi Comes Off Bench As Argentina Defeat Paraguay 1-0 In World Cup Qualifier

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Lionel Messi came off the bench early in the second half in Argentina‘s 1-0 victory over Paraguay on Thursday night in Buenos Aires during World Cup qualification.

For Argentina’s third CONMEBOL qualifier so far, coach Lionel Scaloni kept Messi, who is recovering from a leg injury, out of his starting lineup. Instead, he started Porto winger Nico Gonzalez, Julián Lvarez of Manchester City, and Lautaro Martnez of Inter Milan at the top of his formation.

To the joy of the home crowd at Monumental, Messi started to warm up just after the half after Nicolas Otamendi’s early goal gave a commanding Argentina the lead at halftime.

During his more than 40 minutes on the field, Messi displayed vigor, directing traffic, aiding Argentina in pinning Paraguay back, and creating countless opportunities for his teammates. After entering the game, Messi missed the post with a free kick in the final seconds of the second half, but the hosts were unable to increase their lead.

Paraguayan forward Antonio Sanabria seemed to spit at him in the 85th minute after a discussion and with Messi’s back to him.

With three wins and nine points, the defending World Cup champions will play Peru on the road on October 17 in an effort to extend their winning streak.

With only one loss in its last 50 games, Argentina has outscored opponents 108-25 and has gone 36-13-1 since losing to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America quarterfinals. The victory over Paraguay extended that amazing record.

Scaloni’s Argentina was 2-0 in CONMEBOL qualification heading into the game with victories against Ecuador (1-0) and Bolivia (3-0) in September. Messi, however, was unable to play against Bolivia due to a leg injury sustained in the first game.

After Inter Miami‘s 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Saturday, the team was forced to miss the MLS Cup playoffs as a result of Messi’s injury.

Prior to the game, the Argentine superstar’s presence in the qualifying match on Thursday had been in question. Scaloni had stated on Wednesday that Messi will make the final decision on whether or not to play.

With a victory in the inaugural Leagues Cup match between MLS and Liga MX teams in August, Messi helped Miami win the club’s first trophy. However, his squad lost in the U.S. Open Cup final without Messi, and ultimately missed the MLS postseason as well.

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