‘Argentina are a joke’: Messi salvages draw with Paraguay but Copa America hopes in the balance

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A Lionel Messi penalty and spot-kick save by goalkeeper Franco Armani kept Argentina’s Copa America hopes alive as they put in another sub-par performance in a 1-1 draw with Paraguay.

Richard Sanchez put Paraguay ahead after 37 minutes in Belo Horizonte when he lashed home a cross from Miguel Almiron.

Argentina leveled from the spot on 57 minutes after VAR adjudged that Ivan Piris had handled in the box, despite no players appealing for the infringement.

Messi fired home confidently to level the scores, but Argentina were indebted to goalkeeper Armani at the other end of the pitch when he saved a Derlis Gonzalez penalty five minutes later.

Following their opening-game defeat to Colombia, Argentina lie bottom of Copa America Group B. The Colombians secured top spot ealier on Wednesday by beating Qatar 1-0 thanks to a late Duvan Zapata goal.

The Argentinians know they will need to beat Qatar on Sunday to stand any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

La Albiceleste have not won a major tournament since 1993 – losing in the past two Copa America finals – and on the evidence shown at this year’s tournament they do not look like changing that statistic.

Much of the fans’ ire after the latest disappointment was directed at coach Lionel Scaloni, a former international midfielder who took over from Jorge Sampaoli after the World Cup failure in Russia last summer.

Argentine boss Scaloni. © AFP / Luis Acosta

The job is the first as manager for Scaloni, 41, who had only previously held assistant manager roles.

He was slammed online for his changes against Paraguay, including bringing Lautaro Martinez off for Angel Di Maria when the former looked a threatening presence alongside substitute Sergio Aguero and Messi up front.

Just when Argentina found life and were doing good with Martinez,Aguero and Messi,Scaloni decides to ruin it by taking off Martinez and brings in Di Maria that too playing him in a role which he left years back. This Argentina team is a joke and might not make it to the knockouts

— Rahat Ali Naqvi (@syedrahat_ali) June 20, 2019

Lionel Scaloni deserves a lot of the blame tonight. His first substitution changed the game positively, when Agüero went in #Argentina was much more dangerous with 2 strikers. But then quickly he ruined it by taking out Lautaro! No clear plan/system/tactics.#ARGPAR#CopaAmericapic.twitter.com/ju1Hc0Pxwt

— Joga Bonito (@Jasoninho10) June 20, 2019

Many see Scaloni as dangerously out of his depth, also criticizing him for leaving Juventus star Paulo Dybala on the bench again for the duration of the game.

If Lionel Scaloni wants to do something constructive at the half-time break, resigning wouldn’t be a bad choice.

— Daniel Edwards 💚 (@DanEdwardsGoal) June 20, 2019

What must Dybala do to get into a poor #Argentina starting XI! Lionel Scaloni is a fraud! #CopaAmerica#CopaAmerica2019pic.twitter.com/agexl4PQ6F

— Segun_thebook (@SSnetwoork) June 20, 2019

Argentina face their must-win game against Asian champions Qatar – a guest team at the Copa America – in Porto Alegre on Sunday.

The top two teams from each of the three groups are guaranteed quarter-final spots, while the remaining two places go to the two best third-placed teams.

RT

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