Colombia drew on their reserves to defeat Paraguay 1-0 and make it three wins from three in the Copa America group stage.

Carlos Queiroz's side earned all three points at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, despite the coach making 10 changes to the team that beat Qatar last time out.

Gustavo Cuellar's first-half strike, which went in off the right foot of Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, made the difference.

Colombia had a goal disallowed in the second half as well, when substitute James Rodriguez flicked a clever pass with the outside out of his boot to Luis Diaz, who controlled and lashed a shot past Fernandez from 10 yards. After a long wait, a VAR review showed the ball had brushed Diaz's right arm and the goal was ruled out.

Paraguay, who have two points, now face a nervy wait to find out if they have done enough to progress out of Group C with one of the two best third-placed records.

Lionel Messi scored a second-half penalty but Argentina were left facing a Copa America group-stage exit after a 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Wednesday.

Messi converted a 57th-minute spot-kick after Argentina had fallen behind to a Richard Sanchez goal in Belo Horizonte.

Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was needed to keep his side level shortly after the hour-mark, though, saving a Derlis Gonzalez penalty.

The draw saw Argentina earn their first point in Group B, but they remain bottom behind Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.

While Argentina enjoyed the better start, the game lacked any rhythm in the opening 20 minutes after numerous fouls and stoppages.

It was Paraguay who created the best chance of the opening half-hour, Gonzalez's strike deflected just wide after a counter-attack.

Messi had an opportunity for Argentina in the 34th minute, but the Barcelona star's free-kick from 30 yards lacked the power to trouble Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

Paraguay would break the deadlock before half-time through Sanchez's first international goal.

Newcastle United midfielder Miguel Almiron set up the goal with a brilliant run down the left, before crossing for Sanchez to finish into the bottom corner from inside the area.

Lautaro Martinez hit the crossbar for Argentina six minutes into the second half after good work from half-time substitute Sergio Aguero, but it was that moment that led to the equaliser.

Argentina were awarded a penalty after a VAR review, with replays showing Martinez's strike hit the arm of Ivan Piris.

Messi stepped up, putting the penalty into the bottom corner for his 68th international goal.

However, Paraguay were awarded a spot-kick of their own after a poor challenge by Nicolas Otamendi on Gonzalez, but Armani dived low to his left to push away the penalty in the 63rd minute.

Martinez headed over soon after for Argentina and both teams struggled to create chances late on as they shared the spoils.

 

What does it mean? Argentina's fate out of their own hands

Lionel Scaloni's men needed a win against Paraguay to get back on track, but will now be left relying on other results going their way. They will look to beat Qatar in their final group game and that may not be enough to finish in the top two, although they could also be one of the two best third-placed teams.

Argentina retain unbeaten record

It was only a draw, but Argentina retained their record of never losing to Paraguay at the Copa America. That run is now up to 25 games, including 19 wins and six draws.

Aguero, Di Maria benching continues confusion

Scaloni opted for four changes to his starting XI from the team beaten by Colombia, including dropping Aguero and Angel Di Maria to the bench. Both were introduced in the second half and the former caused some problems, but it indicated some uncertainty from Scaloni regarding his best XI.

What's next?

Argentina face Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday, while Paraguay meet Colombia in Salvador.

Lionel Messi must be stopped by a collective effort from Paraguay in Wednesday's crunch Copa America clash, according to their head coach Eduardo Berizzo.

Both teams endured disappointing starts to the continental showpiece, with Paraguay letting a two-goal lead slip in their 2-2 draw against Qatar, while Argentina were abject in a 2-0 loss to Colombia.

As his quest for major honours with his country trudges on, Argentina will again look to Messi for inspiration and former Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss Berizzo concedes there is no easy solution when it comes to tackling the Barcelona superstar.

"To annul a player like Messi is not an individual task, it is a collective task," he told reporters ahead of taking on his native country.

"When you try to neutralise him, he opens the way [for others]. So the question is not centred only on him, but on the possibilities that are generated from him for other players."

Paraguay's late collapse against Qatar stung Berizzo and he wants to see a response from his players – particularly in terms of game management when they are in possession.

"We have talked about what happened and what we have to improve," he added.

"That is control of the ball and [making sure] that the process of the match does not escape us depending on the result.

"We have to sustain the plan from beginning to end."

Argentina will hope to belatedly get their Copa America campaign up and running when they face Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday.

Lionel Scaloni's men fell to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Colombia in their Group B opener in Salvador at the weekend, with Lionel Messi again coming for criticism after what was perceived by many as another sub-par display on the international stage.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi will be hoping to get Argentina firing at the Mineirao against a Paraguay side that were held to a 2-2 draw by Qatar in their opening match.

Nicolas Burdisso, who played with Messi at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, remains confident the Barcelona superstar can lead Argentina to their first senior title since 1993.

"He's a leader who asks for the ball. He is the type of leader the team needs to win these matches, someone who makes decisions on the pitch," Burdisso told TyC Sports.

"You can also have a leader by personality and, obviously, the coach. They help each other, they complement each other and do not fight between themselves.

"We always get caught up on Messi because he's the best in the world and has earned that respect."

It has been suggested Angel Di Maria will lose his place to Rodrigo De Paul for the match, following a bright second-half cameo from the latter winger against Colombia, while Lautaro Martinez could be picked ahead of Sergio Aguero up front.

Paraguay boss Eduardo Berizzo is also said to be considering changes, with Gustavo Gomez potentially set to be drafted into the centre of defence.

Paraguay took a 2-0 lead against Qatar through Oscar Cardozo and substitute Derlis Gonzalez, but Almoez Ali reduced the arrears before an own goal from Roberto Rojas ensured the spoils were shared.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Leandro Paredes

Following an ineffective display against Colombia, Paredes will need to up his effort in the centre of midfield and help create more opportunities if he is to retain his place in the Argentina line-up.

Paraguay – Derlis Gonzalez

Having scored as a substitute against Qatar, Gonzalez looks primed to make an impact from the bench once more if he is not moved into Berizzo's starting line-up. The on-loan Santos winger scored the only goal when Paraguay won their previous meeting with Argentina during 2018 World Cup qualifying.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have never lost against Paraguay at a Copa America (W19 D5 L0); they have only faced Chile more times without losing a single game in the competition (excluding penalties) – W20 D7 L0.
- Paraguay are winless in their past eight Copa America games (D4 L4); in fact, they have only won one of their previous 18 games in the competition (D10 L7): a 1-0 win over Jamaica in 2015.
- Argentina failed to score in each of their past two Copa America games (0-0 v Chile in the 2016 final and 2-0 v Colombia in the 2019 opening game); they last failed to score in three consecutive matches in the competition in 1989 (4 – 2D 2L).
- Aguero has scored just three goals in his past 23 competitive games for Argentina, netting versus France and Iceland at the 2018 World Cup and against Panama in the 2016 Copa America.

Eduardo Berizzo believes the Copa America should be exclusive to nations from the Americas after guests Qatar secured a draw against Paraguay on Sunday.

Asian Cup champions Qatar – invited to participate in this year's tournament along with Japan – overturned a two-goal deficit to earn a shock 2-2 draw against Berizzo's Paraguay in their Copa opener.

CONMEBOL has a history of inviting nations to compete, and Asian nation Australia are set to take part in the 2020 edition in Colombia and Argentina.

Reflecting on Paraguay's Group B draw in Rio de Janeiro, head coach Berizzo told reporters: "I think it would make sense to play a Copa America with teams from all the Americas.

"Are you asking me about invited nations, right? About Qatar and Japan? I think we should imagine a whole Copa America, with Central America and North America playing all the same tournament.

"I never saw Europe inviting any South American team to compete.

"Don't take it wrong, maybe it sounds a little acidic today, just after playing against our rival [Qatar]. But I firmly believe Copa America should be played by all the American teams in one tournament – CONCACAF and CONMEBOL together."

Paraguay looked to be on track for a winning start thanks to Oscar Cardozo's fourth-minute penalty before Derlis Gonzalez added an unstoppable second.

Qatar, however, fought back in the second half via Almoez Ali and Juan Rodrigo Rojas – who headed a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal.

"This result disappoints us all, we all want to win, from the fan to the coach," Berizzo said. "We need to mind our rival, our reality, a lot of things that explains a lot about this situation.

"This is a new cycle for the team, there is no way I didn't know Copa America was coming to this date, so I cannot make any excuse of it if we cannot play well, when we play well I will tell you we did it.

"Today we had a hard time finding the ball, especially in the middle of the field, and especially after being 2-0 up. If we would have this done, we should get another result."

Qatar came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Paraguay in their Copa America debut, Rodrigo Rojas heading a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal for a bizarre late equaliser.

Paraguay looked set to claim all three Group B points in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday after taking a fourth-minute lead thanks to Oscar Cardozo's penalty, with Derlis Gonzalez scoring an unstoppable second.

But invited guests Qatar, who won their maiden Asian Cup earlier this year, showed character to fight back and star man Almoez Ali got them back in the game with a curler from outside the box.

And when Khoukhi's shot squeezed through Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, the backtracking Rojas could only nod the ball in before getting tangled in the net and seemingly damaging his shoulder.

Qatar made a chaotic start in their Copa debut, almost conceding in the first minute before Pedro Miguel gave away a penalty for blocking a Bruno Valdez header with his arm.

Paraguay striker Cardozo had not played at the Copa since 2007 but he stepped up to smash the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle to open the scoring.

Qatar should have levelled in the 16th minute but, arriving unmarked at the back post, Hassan Al Haydos somehow failed to convert a low left-wing cross from Abdelkarim Hassan.

Almoez Ali was denied by Roberto Fernandez on the stroke of half-time, with Paraguay seeing a second goal for Cardozo disallowed by VAR within five minutes of the restart.

Paraguay would not be denied in the 56th minute, however, as half-time substitute Gonzalez unleashed a 25-yard rocket that curled away from the desperate dive of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Scoring nine goals at the Asian Cup marked Ali out as a man to watch and he unleashed a terrific hit from 20 yards to make it 2-1 and spark hope of a comeback.

And when Rojas lacked composure in front of his own goal with 13 minutes to play, Qatar had earned a priceless Copa point to justify their inclusion.

Many of the world's best players will be on show in Brazil over the next few weeks for the 2019 edition of the Copa America, but there will also be some talents hoping to use the tournament as a springboard.

For every Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez there will be a less familiar name attempting to establish himself on the international stage, potentially earning a big move.

The tournament sees the traditional CONMEBOL nations take part, plus guests Qatar and Japan, the latter of whom have named a squad mostly made up of players likely to feature in next year's Olympics.

With the Copa America starting on Friday, we have spoken to the experts to identify one potential breakout star to watch for each nation.

 

GROUP A

Brazil - David Neres (Ajax)

Tom Webber (Brazilian football expert): Following a stellar season with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, Neres has a great chance to make his mark on the international stage. The 22-year-old winger is expected to be handed a starting role following Neymar's injury-enforced withdrawal, despite only making his first start in the 7-0 demolition of Honduras on June 9. Neres scored 12 goals and supplied 11 assists in all competitions for Ajax in 2018-19 and appears primed to make a mark on the Copa America, with plenty of interested parties likely to be keeping a close eye on him.

Bolivia - Edwin Saavedra (Bolivar)

Andres Mendez Dott (Bolivian football expert): Saavedra is a direct and explosive midfielder who started his career as right-back but now plays further forward. At the age of 23, he is closing in on 200 appearances for Bolivar and had a short spell at Brazilian side Goias. Humble off the pitch, he is rather more audacious on it, as he is not afraid to shoot from distance or take on defenders. Coach Eduardo Villegas is still undecided about his starting midfield, but we can expect Saaverdra to be a part of it. There are some rumours he might be deployed on the left, but either way, if he gets the ball and some space, you can count on him testing Dani Alves or Filipe Luis against Brazil. The Copa will be very challenging for Bolivia, but Saavedra could make his mark.

Peru - Renato Tapia (Willem II, on loan from Feyenoord)

Diego Montalvan (Peruvian sports journalist): If there's one player to watch in the Peru side, it's 23-year-old Renato Tapia, coming off arguably his best season in Europe with Willem II. The tournament will also enable him to put himself in the shop window, as he is reportedly looking for a transfer away from parent club Feyenoord. A central midfielder who can also fill in defensively, for Peru Tapia generally plays the role of destroyer to Yoshimar Yotun's creator, but if given the freedom to move forward he can create and even chip in with a few 'golazos'. 'El capitan del futuro', as he is called by many in Peru, is already an undisputed starter, but if he wants to stay in Europe he will have a point to prove in Brazil.

Venezuela - Wuilker Farinez (Millonarios)

Daniel Alvarez Montes (Venezuelan sports journalist): Farinez was part of the Venezuela squad in Chile for the 2015 Copa America when he was just 17. Many criticised then-coach Noel Sanvicente for that decision, knowing Farinez was not going to play. However, Sanvicente insisted it was a great opportunity for Farinez to grow. Four years later, we can say that decision was arguably his best one while in charge of La Vinotinto. Farinez played a significant role for Venezuela's youth sides after that, making a huge impact in tournaments at several age levels. Currently playing for Millonarios in Colombia, the Copa America will be a massive opportunity for him to show the world what he is capable of. Europe could be his next stop, with Benfica front-runners to acquire him.

GROUP B

Argentina - Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis)

Peter Coates (Buenos Aires-based football writer): Finding a balance in midfield, linking defence to attack and crucially providing a partner for Lionel Messi have been issues for Argentina for several years. A new-look squad for the Copa America sees much of that responsibility fall on the shoulders of Lo Celso and coach Lionel Scaloni has already spoken highly of the 23-year-old, hoping the Real Betis playmaker and the world's best player can reproduce a relationship he has already witnessed on the training field. Something akin to an old-fashioned 'enganche' of yesteryear, Lo Celso will operate in the spaces behind the striker and allow Messi to roam off the right with his usual menace. The Rosario Central product's eye for a pass, ability to work in tight spaces and sweet left foot could make him the ideal partner for Messi and crucial to La Albiceleste's success.

 

Paraguay - Matias Rojas (Defensa y Justicia)

Roberto Rojas (Paraguayan journalist): Rojas is expected to be La Albirroja's breakout player in this Copa America. A product of the esteemed Cerro Porteno academy, the 23-year-old followed the path of various Paraguayans looking to get their first break abroad by heading to Argentina, where he was initially loaned to Lanus in 2017, before joining modest Defensa y Justicia the following year. He became a key player for Sebastian Beccacece's team, who secured an historic second-place finish in the 2018-19 Superliga. A central midfielder known for his passing and dangerous set-pieces, Rojas has already signed a contract to join Racing Club, who finished just ahead of Defensa y Justicia. Paraguay manager Eduardo Berizzo is likely to play Rojas in a 4-3-3 formation, where he will be expected to combine with Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron as the team's two-man creative hub.

Qatar - Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail)

Martin Lowe (Asian football expert): Ali went from relative obscurity to the name on everyone's lips at the Asian Cup, finishing as the highest-scoring player and breaking Ali Daei's record with nine goals from seven matches as Qatar claimed a surprise success. A languid target man with strength and the eye for a goal, he threatens from even the trickiest situations and cemented his MVP status at the Asian Cup with an outrageous bicycle kick in the final. Ali – born in Sudan – remains a contentious case amid questions over his eligibility, but he has been allowed to continue representing Qatar. He blossomed in a number of international youth teams, tending to fill his boots whenever he got the opportunity. His all-round game has improved, having been shifted out wide for his club side Al-Duhail, but he is mostly used as a static focal point with more creative types such as Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos playing off him.

Colombia - Luis Diaz (Junior)

Simon Edwards (South American football writer): Diaz is a hugely exciting winger who will be tasked with bringing fresh impetus to Colombia off the bench. He was spotted by Carlos Valderrama and 'El Pibe' recommended Junior snap him up. He has become a star of Colombian league football, with offers received from River Plate and Cardiff City. Diaz plays with the fearless enthusiasm and the joy of a child, but has also complimented his unpredictable, weaving dribbles with goals and improved defensive discipline. He is now a complete attacking midfielder who tracks back and provides a threat. Diaz draws defenders but has the skill and invention to craft a solution. 'Luchito' will take risks and lose possession occasionally, but he also has the quality, pace and confidence to have a huge impact for this Colombia side.

GROUP C

Chile - Erick Pulgar (Bologna)

Adam Brandon (Chile-based South American football writer): Erick Pulgar will probably be given a chance to shine in central midfield in the Copa America after his stellar season with Bologna in Italy. The 25-year-old is good on the ball, passes well and can play a more defensive role as well. He also boasts an excellent penalty record, which could come in handy for Chile again in this Copa America, given how the 2015 and 2016 finals were won.

Japan - Takefusa Kubo (FC Tokyo)

Stuart Smith (Japan-based football writer): Japanese fans will line up to tell you 18-year-old attacker Takefusa Kubo, currently with FC Tokyo but almost certainly headed to a big European club very soon, is the Samurai Blue's player to watch. Small, fleet-footed and not afraid to try tricks, he has shown a maturity beyond his years this season in the J.League. He spent his formative years at Barcelona's famed La Masia, and his technical ability is a testament to that period. Excellent with both feet, extremely skilful and able to spot and drift into spaces that other players cannot, Kubo has the potential to develop into an outstanding player. Coach Hajime Moriyasu will try to manage expectations, but it will be difficult to keep such a talented player off the pitch for too long.

Ecuador - Jhegson Sebastian Mendez (Orlando City)

Xavier Zavala (Ecuadorian football analyst): Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will implement a defensive approach that will appeal to Mendez's greatest strengths, which are his tackling efficiency and relentless motor. The 22-year-old midfielder has shown he is capable of man marking without being rash or overly aggressive and his position with Ecuador will be similar to at Orlando City, where he plays a deep-lying role. The challenge he has is dislodging the Liga de Quito partnership of Jefferson Orejuela and Jefferson Intriago, but given the stamina the system used by 'El Bolillo' requires, rotation is to be expected. Once Mendez gets his chance, he will be in a position to prove his worth.

Uruguay - Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors)

Nick Dorrington (freelance South American football journalist): Nandez is an all-action midfielder who has become a regular for Uruguay over the last year or so, usually playing off the right-hand side. A boundlessly energetic little terrier of a player, he snaps away at the heels of opponents, runs up and down and back again, and gets the ball forward quickly. He is also capable of moments of genuine quality, such as the ball he played through to release Dario Benedetto for Boca Juniors' goal in their Copa Libertadores final defeat to River Plate in December. Linked with a move to Europe, the Copa America could be a useful shop window for the 23-year-old.

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