Im­pres­sive Paraguay fight­back stuns hope­ful Ar­gentina at Copa Amer­ica

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY MAR­I­ANO AN­DRADE

Ar­gentina’s dreams of a first ma­jor ti­tle in 22 years were given a re­al­ity check on Satur­day as Paraguay came from be­hind to snatch a last-gasp 2-2 draw in a Copa Amer­ica clas­sic.

English Pre­mier league star Ser­gio Aguero and cap­tain Lionel Messi looked to have put Ar­gentina on the road to a rou­tine victory in Group B af­ter fir­ing the tour­na­ment fa­vorites into a 2-0 first-half lead.

But a long-range strike from Nel­son Valdez hauled Paraguay back into the con­test be­fore Ar­gen­tine- born for­ward Lu­cas Bar­rios grabbed a dra­matic 90thminute equal­izer.

The stunning come­back

left Ar­gentina in shock and could com­pli­cate their route through the knock­out rounds in Chile.

“It is a sin,” to give away an equal­izer in the fi­nal minute, Ar­gentina coach Ger­ardo Martino said af­ter­wards, lam­bast­ing his team’s “ne­glect.”

“We lost con­trol and the other team had four or five chances to get a draw,” Martino told a news con­fer­ence.

“We had many chances to win,” he added, say­ing that the team in the sec­ond half were “to­tally dif­fer­ent from the side that played in the first half.”

“I do not think we need to change any­thing. What we have to look back at the two games we played in the 90 min­utes to­day.”

‘Like a victory’

Paraguay goal hero Bar­rios was ju­bi­lant af­ter his team's hero­ics.

“This group is so tough that get­ting a draw in the last minute against Ar­gentina is like a victory,” said Bar­rios, who plays for Mont­pel­lier in France.

Paraguay’s other goalscorer, Valdez, paid trib­ute to the spirit shown by his team­mates.

“In­di­vid­u­ally we are less than Ar­gentina, but as a team we are bet­ter than them,” he said. “We needed a slap in the face at half-time.”

Ar­gentina, run­ners-up in the World Cup fi­nal last year, are aim­ing to win their first ma­jor tour­na­ment since victory in the 1993 Copa Amer­ica.

They now face a cru­cial sec­ond match on Tues­day against hold­ers Uruguay, who strug­gled to im­press in a lack­lus­ter 1-0 win over Caribbean min­nows Ja­maica ear­lier Satur­day.

Uruguay, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, badly missed their suspended striker Luis Suarez, who is still serv­ing a ban for bit­ing Italy's Gior­gio Chiellini at the World Cup.

Im­prove­ment De­manded

La Ce­leste cap­tain Diego Godin de­manded im­prove­ment on Satur­day af­ter a soli­tary goal from Cris­tian Ro­driguez saved their blushes against the Reg­gae Boyz.

“It's a good re­sult to start with, now we need to cor­rect some mis­takes,” Godin told Chilean tele­vi­sion.

“It's very im­por­tant to win the first game in the Copa Amer­ica, as it is in any big tour­na­ment,” the Atletico Madrid de­fender added. “We have to go game by game, but we will have to im­prove and keep work­ing hard.”

Uruguay barely cre­ated a chance against Ja­maica, one of two teams from the North Amer­ica, Cen­tral Amer­ica and Caribbean zone in­vited to take part in the Copa Amer­ica, along with Mex­ico.

Uruguay fi­nally broke the dead­lock seven min­utes af­ter the break with a clev­erly worked set-piece rou­tine.

Boca Ju­niors mid­fielder Ni­co­las Lodeiro floated a free- kick from wide on the left for de­fender Jose Maria Gimenez, who lost his marker to head back into the area for Ro­driguez, on loan with Brazil­ian side Gremio from Atletico Madrid, to fin­ish.

Sun­day's Copa Amer­ica ac­tion sees the en­trance of five- time world cham­pi­ons Brazil, who face Peru in Group C. Colom­bia play Venezuela in the other match on Sun­day.

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