Friday, January 28

Copa América: Argentina scores and goes to sleep | America’s Soccer Cup 2021

Alejandro 'Papu' Gómez celebrates his goal against Paraguay.
Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez celebrates his goal against Paraguay.Ricardo Mazalan / AP

From disappointment in the premiere against Chile to the illusion in the victory against Uruguay, Argentina was heads and tails against Paraguay. He had nothing left over, he lacked a lot; but he won. A result only justified in three players: Messi started, Di María attended and Alejandro defined Papu Gomez. Only 10 minutes had passed and the Argentina that woke up went to sleep. Paraguay did not take advantage of it, giddy with the ball, with no other resources than the set piece, always controlled by goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. Argentina adds triumphs and Messi records. Another one for Rosario, now with the Albiceleste. Already consolidated as the top gunner, against Paraguay he equaled Mascherano as the player with the most matches (147).

It was precisely against Paraguay when the history of La Pulga began in the Argentine team. Already installed in the Masia, Hugo Tocalli, then right-hand man of José Pékerman, prepared a video with the plays of Rosario for Julio Grondona, president of the AFA from 1979 to 2014: “You have to do something, they will call him in Spain” . On June 29, 2004, Grondona organized a friendly against the Guaraní team to file to Messi. La Albiceleste won 8-0, the azulgrana closed his roster with a goal and two assists. 17 years later, La Pulga was not alone in his celebration. He took the field with his two historical partners, Di María (106 games) and Agüero (99).

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First start for Di María and Agüero in the Copa América. They were not, in any case, the only modifications of Lionel Scaloni, which changes and changes, of names and system, regardless of result and game. From the team that jumped onto the field in the victory against Uruguay (1-0), the Albiceleste coach kept Emiliano Martínez, Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Guido Rodríguez and, how could it be otherwise, Leo Messi in the eleven . From the outset, shifting; Only next to Agüero in the 4-4-2 attack that Scaloni drew, Messi approached the midfield to meet the ball, essentially to speed up Argentina’s game. He accelerated the 10 and opened the field for Di María, installed on the right wing as in PSG. From the speed of Messi to that of Di María, the extreme of the Parisian team filtered a great pass so that Papu Gómez, with subtlety, signed the 1-0. Quick in the movement of the ball, intense in the pressure, the Albiceleste threatened to overwhelm Paraguay. He just feigned. It was 10 minutes.

Argentina was turned off, Paraguay never turned on. La Albiceleste handed the leather over to Eduardo Berizzo’s boys (57% possession), who never knew how to break behind Scaloni. He hardly even tried: two shots on goal, none uncomfortable for Emiliano Martínez. And Argentina? Not even that. Disconnected Messi, heavy Agüero, the Albiceleste only depended on the speed of Di María and some outburst of Papu Gómez. So, he dedicated himself to defending. The problem is he doesn’t know how to do it without the ball. It is not their strength, nor is it their tradition. He cared, yes, the result. Nothing more. There was no sign of the team that had hinted at a more cheerful football against Uruguay. But he won and already rests at the top of the table in group A.

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