Monday, July 15, 2024

Otamendi on target as Argentina stays perfect in World Cup qualifiers

Nicolas Otamendi struck a superb first-half goal as Argentina continued their perfect start to the South American zone 2026 World Cup qualifiers with a 1-0 home win over Paraguay.

The 35-year-old Benfica defender put the hosts ahead in the third minute when he latched onto Rodrigo de Paul’s corner with a spectacular volley that left goalkeeper Carlos Coronel with no chance.

Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi, who is recovering from an unspecified muscle injury, was introduced as a 53rd-minute substitute for Julian Alvarez. The 36-year-old Inter Miami forward made an immediate impact, twice hitting the woodwork in the final 20 minutes, Xinhua reports.

Argentina controlled 75% of possession and completed 741 passes, almost three times as many as the visitors. But only four of the reigning world champions’ 15 shots were on target as they struggled to break down Paraguay’s defense.

Lionel Scaloni’s men, who now have nine points from three matches, will meet Peru in Lima in their next qualifier on Tuesday. Paraguay will be seeking their first win of the qualifying campaign when they host Bolivia in Asuncion the same day.

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