Copa America: Argentina in knockouts, Luis Suarez ends Uruguay's goal drought
Papu Gomez scored in the 10th minute as Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 and secured their place in the Copa America knockout stage. The result at the Man Garrincha stadium in Brasilia moved Argentina atop Group A with seven points from three matches. The game also gave Lionel Messi a record 147th cap for the national team, equalling the mark of retired defender Javier Mascherano.
Chile, who also advanced to the quarterfinals, are second in the group with five points after the 1-1 draw with Uruguay. Paraguay have three points, followed by Uruguay (1) and Bolivia (0).
Captain Messi, seeking his first major title with the national team, had to work with a team impacted by six changes in the starting lineup.
Defenders German Pezzella and Nicolas Tagliafico, midfielders Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes; and forwards Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria started. Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Acuna, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso, Lautaro Martinez and Nicolas Gonzalez were left out of the starting lineup.
The changes did not stop Argentina from starting strongly. Early in the game, Messi found Di Maria on the right, and the veteran winger eluded the Paraguayan defense with an assist to Gomez. The striker lifted a shot over Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva.
Argentina forced Silva to make important saves in the first half but the energy of the team waned in the second half, as it has in several recent matches.
"I was waiting for this opportunity," Gomez said after the match. "I am thinking of my family, my friends. It comes to your mind that you made a lot of effort (to be there). I had the patience to wait."
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said he was concerned about players being tired after a long season and three straight Copa America matches.
"These conditions were not the best to play," he said. "The second half is also to Paraguay's merit. But we obviously have to improve."
Messi had his least impressive performance at the tournament so far, but he still got praise from the previous holder of the record of most matches played for Argentina. "No one better than you to keep making the legend grow and be the player with most caps for our dear national team," Mascherano posted on Instagram.
Argentina's last group-stage match will be on Monday against Bolivia. Paraguay will take on Chile on Thursday. The top four in each five-team group will advance.
Suarez equalises for Uruguay
Luis Suarez ended a goal scoring drought for Uruguay that threatened to extend to a fifth straight game. The veteran striker's 66th-minute equaliser helped Uruguay to a 1-1 draw against Chile on Monday, and their first point of the tournament.
The result allowed Chile to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament and kept the Uruguayans in contention in Group A.
"Chile's Eduardo Vargas opened the scoring in the 26th with a powerful crossed shot from the right," and Suarez levelled the score from close range.
Argentina lead Group A with seven points. Chile is in second spot with five points, followed by Paraguay (3), Uruguay (1) and Bolivia (0).
Uruguay tried to be aggressive at the start after four matches without scoring, a stretch including Copa America and World Cup qualifying competition. Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made two difficult saves in the first 10 minutes, both to shots taken by Giorgian de Arrascaeta.
And then Chile scored. Vargas had a one-two with Ben Brereton on the right flank, entered the penalty box and shot with little angle past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Uruguay once again struggled to give opportunities to Suarez and Edinson Cavani, so coach Oscar Tabrez sent on midfielder Nahitan Nandez and striker Facundo Torres after the break.
Torres took a corner that deflected off Matias Vecino's head so Suarez could reach it. The striker and Chile's Arturo Vidal stretched to reach the ball, but Suarez hit it first with a volley.
Chile were down to 10 men in the 85th when Erick Pulgar was injured, after coach Martin Lasarte had already made all his substitutions. But Uruguay were unable to capitalise.
After the match, Suarez said he'd been lucky to score at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.
"We are happy with our teamwork today, but we know we have a lot to improve," he said.
Uruguay will play their third match of the tournament on Thursday against Bolivia. Chile will have their last group-stage game against Paraguay.