Otamendi’s Goal Secures Argentina’s Victory over Paraguay, Messi Makes Substitute Appearance

Nicolas Otamendi helps Argentina secure victory against Paraguay in World Cup qualifier

Nicolas Otamendi of Argentina celebrates with teammates after scoring the team’s first goal during the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Argentina and Paraguay at Estadio Más Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti on October 12, 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lionel Messi made his return from injury, but struggled to deliver a strong performance as Argentina managed to beat Paraguay 1-0 in a South American World Cup qualifying match. The victory marked Argentina’s third win in three matches of the round-robin competition.

Otamendi’s early goal secures the win

Argentina took the lead in the third minute after a corner kick found Nicolás Otamendi unmarked in the penalty box. The defender hit the ball into the net with a left-foot volley, giving Argentina the only goal of the match.

Messi misses opportunities

Lionel Messi, who had been battling muscular pains in his right leg, came off the bench but failed to make a significant impact on the game. He hit the post twice, once from a corner kick and another from a free kick, but his efforts to dribble and create scoring opportunities fell short.

It was clear that Messi was still recovering from his injury, and Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni decided to substitute him in the 52nd minute when the team was already in the lead. Messi’s replacement, Nico Gonzalez, took over the midfield duties.

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Paraguay lacks attacking power

Paraguay’s new coach, Daniel Garnero, made his debut against Argentina, but his team struggled to showcase any attacking prowess. Despite attempting to find ways to breach Argentina’s defense, Paraguay failed to create clear-cut scoring chances.

Garnero, who took over from Guillermo Barros Schelotto last month, will need to analyze the team’s performance and make adjustments for future matches.

Argentina’s strong start to World Cup qualifying

With this victory, Argentina solidified their position in the South American World Cup qualifiers. They now have nine points from three matches, while Paraguay only has one point.

The top six teams in South America will receive direct entry to the next World Cup in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The seventh-place team will have to participate in an intercontinental playoff for a chance to qualify.

Other results from World Cup qualifiers

Earlier on Thursday, Colombia and Uruguay played out a 2-2 draw. James Rodríguez opened the scoring for Colombia in the 37th minute, but Matias Oliveira equalized shortly before halftime. Mateus Uribe put Colombia back in front in the 52nd minute, but Uruguay equalized from the spot in the final moments of the match.

Ecuador secured a 2-1 victory over Bolivia in La Paz. Kendry Paéz scored for Ecuador before halftime, but Rodrigo Ramallo equalized for Bolivia in the 83rd minute. However, Kevin Rodriguez gave Ecuador the win with a goal in the final moments of the match.

Later on Thursday, Brazil had an opportunity to join Argentina at the top of the standings with a win against Venezuela, while Chile and Peru also faced off in another World Cup qualifying match.

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Overall, the South American World Cup qualifiers continue to be highly competitive, with each match carrying significant importance for the teams involved.

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