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WC Qualification South America
8 September 2012
• Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, Ciudad de Córdoba, Provincia de Córdoba
Referee: Wilson Luiz Seneme
• Attendance: 51000
Á. di María 3'
G. Higuaín 31'
L. Messi 64'
J. Fabbro 18'
My name is Tom Webber and it has been an absolute pleasure to guide you through tonight's action. Be sure to stick with goal for all the post-match news and analysis, including match report and player ratings. Thank you for joining us.
Full time in Cordoba and Argentina have moved to the top of the Conmebol World Cup qualifying table courtesy of goals from Di Maria, Higuain and Messi. They suffered a brief scare when Fabbro tied the game early on but the extra quality in the final third shone through eventually.
90' + 3'
Ayala sends it in towards Da Silva but it is headed away from goal and the final whistle goes.
90' + 2'
One last chance for Paraguay to pull a goal back here...
Two minutes of added time to be played.
Into the final few moments now and once again Paraguay have a free kick in a dangerous area. Ayala delivers but no one can beat Romero to the ball and he comes out to claim it with ease.
Another opportunity for Paraguay! Once again it comes from Ayala's delivery but a flick on stops Caceres from making contact and volleying the ball into the back of the net. The smallest of margins and it could have all been so different.
A chance for Palacio as he charges down the left but he takes the ball too close to the byeline and fails to stretch Villar with a rolled effort from an acute angle.
GOOOAAALLL!! Wait, no it is not! Ayala's free kick is met by the head of Caceres on the penalty spot and he rises unchallenged to not it past Romero. But as he turns to celebrate he sees the referee's assistant holding his flag up, ruling the goal out for an offside decision.
Yellow Card Rodrigo Braña
GREAT SAVE!! Messi spots Higuain's diagonal run to the top of the box and threads him an accurate pass. The Real Madrid man takes a touch before shooting by Villar stands up and manages to get his body in the way of the shot. That could have wrapped it up.
Yellow Card Rodrigo Palacio
Ángel Di María
Internacional's midfield destroyer Guinazu has come on for Argentina. At 33-years-old though, you have to wonder what role the likes of he and Brana will actually be playing at the World Cup in two years time.
Yellow Card Haedo Valdéz
The game has certainly gone off the boil since Messi hit Argentina's third of the night. Despite conceding those goals, Paraguay's defence has largely been solid and will be a huge positive for Pelusso going forwards.
Paraguay seem to have no composure in the final third now. Benitez finds Caceres in the middle of the pitch but his first touch is diabolical and hands possession straight back to the Albiceleste.
Messi's goal was his eighth in World Cup qualifiers for Argentina, making him the nation's third-highest scorer in the competition. The man just keeps on breaking records.
Great interplay between Real Madrid and Barcelona rivals Higuain and Messi on the right but once more Alcaraz reads the play to make a key interception. He has impressed at the heart of defence tonight.
Argentina can step off the gas a little now and enjoy the occasion; the fans in Cordoba certainly are.
Well that should do it for Argentina in what has also been a vintage year for Messi. The captain netted hat-tricks against both Switzerland and Brazil, for a total of eight goals in 2012's four run-outs. Tonight he has added his ninth with a stunning free kick.
Goal Lionel Messi
GOOOOOAAAALLL!! There it is! Messi makes it three with a truly beautiful free kick. After another clumsy challenge he fires a dead ball inside the post from a central position, 25 yards from goal. His fourth goal in the qualifying stages.
Yellow Card Víctor Cáceres
Paraguay look to break with Ortiz playing a ball up from deep. He tries to search out Cardozo but once more it is a wayward pass that fails to find its desired target.
Pelusso trying to freshen things up in attack by bringing on the potentially lethal Cardozo and Valdez. Paraguay will be desperate to take something from this match and at 2-1 down they have nothing to lose a the moment.
Roque Santa Cruz
The game has gone a bit scrappy in the last few minutes with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball. Garay tries to pump a long ball forward to Lavezzi but it lacks the accuracy and runs straight through to Villar.
Di Maria finds space out on the left and tries to bend a ball in behind the defence for Higuain but Da Silva manages to get across and get a foot on it.
Santa Cruz tries to counter for Paraguay but he lacks the legs to get away from Garay who makes a solid recovering challenge. Argentina need to be careful not to leave themselves too short at the back.
Ayala again threatens from a set piece as he rifles a low effort towards Romero's goal. The keeper gets down to his right-hand post and smothers the ball, stopping it from squeezing inside the net.
Another chance for Messi to hit the target after Campagnaro charges down the right before cutting the ball back to the Barcelona man at the top of the box. He takes a touch and shapes to find the corner but sees his shot blocked by Caceres.
HE'S HIT THE POST AGAIN!! Messi goes on a superb run, beating no fewer than three men before getting a shot away. He attempts to dink the ball past Villar but it bounces of the woodwork on the far side and is dealt with by the Paraguay defence.
Welcome back! The second half was begun. Can Paraguay find a way back into this one or will Argentina rise to the top of the table? We are 45 minutes away from finding out.
Argentina go into the break 2-1 up against Argentina after an impressive first half. The Albiceleste took an early lead through Di Maria but were soon pegged back after a moment of madness from Brana enabled Fabbro to level from the spot. The luck then broke their way as a deflected pass fell straight to Higuain who slotted home. Still another 45 minutes to come and if Paraguay keep fouling the way they are, there could well be a red card. Join me in 15 minutes for the second half.
45' + 2'
The half-time whistle goes in Cordoba!
45' + 1'
We are into the first minute of added time.
Not Ayala's best delivery as he sends a deep corner from the right well out to the left. The Albirroja manage to win another one on the other side but this time his delivery is batted away by Romero.
Interestingly, the Guarani have not been beaten in World Cup qualifying away to their neighbours since 1973, in a game which ended 2-1 in Boca's Bombonera home. It looks like tonight could well change that.
Another good challenge from Alcaraz stops Higuain from burning past him on the right wing. The Wigan defender times his tackle so well that he even manages to avoid conceding a corner!
The Albiceleste are just slowing the pace of the game down a bit now. They are stringing a number of passes together around across the centre of the park, pulling it from side to side in an attempt to draw in the Paraguayans.
Di Maria is back on and seems fine. Piris goes straight in on him again though and seems determined to get the Real Madrid man off with injury.
OFF THE POST!! From the left corner of the box Messi strikes the free kick with his left foot. It looks to be bending into the top corner and with Villar scrambling across his goal he breathes a sigh of relief as it rattles against the woodwork and heads out. Great strike.
Di Maria is down on the floor and seems to be in a lot of pain. He is being loaded onto a stretcher and it does not seem that he will be able to continue.
Yellow Card Iván Rodrigo Piris
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
GOOOOOAAAAALLL!!! Higuain puts Argentina back ahead! A great finish from the Real Madrid man as he latches onto Di Maria's pass, which is deflected off of Ortiz, and slots a composed shot into the far corner after holding off the challenge of the defender.
Another free kick is awarded to Argentina and this one is 30-yards from goal. Messi shoots but it is deflected behind for a corner after taking a deflection off the wall. Di Maria takes the resultant corner and it almost sneaks in at the near post but Villar pushes it away.
Great vision from Di Maria to spot Lavezzi's diagonal run across the top of the box but Alcaraz reads the pass and makes a cracking interception. Paraguay are of course the masters of the draw, having made it all the way to the 2011 Copa America final without winning a game.
Argentina are now starting to assert themselves on the ball but it is mainly on the half-way line. But as soon as they enter the Paraguay half they are closed down rapidly.
Another clumsy challenge from Ortiz, this time on Lavezzi, earns him a yellow card. It also hands Argentina a free kick in a dangerous area but Messi's delivery is dealt with by the Paraguayan defence.
Yellow Card R. Ortiz
A goal from nothing for the Albirroja there. A moment of pure idiocy from Brana enables Pelusso's men to restore parity. It will be interesting to see where the game goes from here. Paraguay will surely try to hold onto this for a while now and try to nick something on the counterattack.
Penalty Goal Jonathan Fabbro
GOOOOOOOOAAAALLL!! FABBRO!! The Argentine-born forward, making his debut for Paraguay after completing five years of residency, slots a composed penalty past Romero with the ball well out his reach.
PENALTY TO PARAGUAY!! Brana handles the ball in the area and the referee points to the spot. What was he thinking?!
Ayala is seeing a lot of the ball down Argentina's left and Rojo is going to have to stay tight to the Libertad man.
It is all very congested in the centre as Paraguay pack the bodies back to stop Argentina finding a route through. Messi's corner is cleared away by Riveros and the national superstar tries to dribble it across the park and attack from the left side but he runs into a swarm of bodies.
Just wide! Another corner for Paraguay and once more it is delivered well by Ayala. The out-swinging cross is met by Alcaraz at the back post but the defender fails to divert the ball on target an sees his header bounce wide of Romero's goal.
Messi is dropping deep to pick up the ball and he attempts to carve apart the Albirroja defence with a one-two with Gago. Estigarribia does well to track back though and make an interception to deny the Barcelona man. They may be 1-0 down but Paraguay are giving a good account of themselves.
A clumsy challenge by Ortiz leaves Messi in a heap on the floor but fortunately he gets back to his feet unscathed. Neither team able to retain possession for a long spell as of yet.
Ayala plumps for an ambitious effort from in excess of 30 yards but he completely mishits it. However, it falls into the path of Santa Cruz and he lays it back for Fabbro. The Argentine-born player's volley flies straight into an Albiceleste shirt though and is cleared away.
Now that is the perfect start for the Albiceleste! Lavezzi already proving to be a popular outlet down the right and his endeavour was key to that goal. Paraguay need to shut up shop instantly or they could risk being overrun.
Goal Ángel Di María
GOOOOOOAAAALLL!! Di Maria! A long ball down the right is picked up by Lavezzi and he cuts inside to play a give-and-go with Higuain. The return pass pinballs around the defence before falling to Di Maria on the edge of the box and he bends a wonderful effort into the top corner past Villar.
Paraguay earn an early corner and Ayala swings it into the area but Argentina manage to clear the ball away with a strong header. Not the greatest of starts for Sabella's men but still very early days.
We are underway in Cordoba!
The national anthems have been played and we are seconds away from kick off. Can Messi put in an awe-inspiring performance to guide Argentina to victory or will he be frustrated by a stern Paraguayan defence? We are about to find out.
Following Ecuador's 1-0 win over Bolivia just moments ago, Argentina have been bumped down to fourth position in the group and so a positive result is even more important. The teams are coming out onto the pitch and kick off is just a few moments away. If you have any thoughts on comments, send them to me via Twitter @thwebber.
The last competitive meeting between this evening's rivals ended in defeat for Argentina. Paraguay downed Diego Maradona's team 1-0 in September 2009 with Nelson Valdez scoring the only goal.
Argentina have been in lethal form throughout 2012. In four games the Albiceleste have triumphed in each, scoring an impressive 14 goals while conceding five.
This is also Gerardo Pelusso's first game in charge of Paraguay having replaced Francisco Arce. They will set out to frustrate Argentina tonight, but in Santa Cruz and Estigarribia they certainly possess the potential to steal a goal.
Alejandro Sabella has selected Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Brana to start in place of the aforementioned suspended duo. Interestingly, there is also an Argentine-born player in the Albirroja line-up. Jonathan Fabbro makes his debut for Paraguay after completing five years of residency in the country.
Paraguay (4-4-2): Villar; Piris, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Ortiz; Ayala, Caceres, Riveros, Estigarribia; Fabbro, Santa Cruz.
Argentina (4-2-3-1): Romero; Campagnaro, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo; Gago, Brana; Di Maria, Messi, Lavezzi; Higuain.
The Albiceleste could move to the top of the qualifying group with a victory in Cordoba following Uruguay's 4-0 loss to Colombia earlier this evening. And they will have to do so without two key figures in Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero, both of whom are suspended. Nevertheless, they have a strong team out tonight, and here are the details.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE text commentary on the match between Argentina and Paraguay Conmebol section of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. My name is Tom Webber and I will be guiding you through tonight's action.
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