Lionel Messi should not be compared unflatteringly to Diego Maradona because his Argentina team-mates are not up to the job.

That is the view of former AC Milan, Real Madrid and England boss Fabio Capello as Messi's Copa America hopes hang by a threat.

Argentina face Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday, having suffered a sapping 2-0 defeat to Colombia in their first Group B game.

Barcelona great Messi has never won a major honour with his country - a wait that looks set to continue on current form.

This factor sees him stack up unfavourably in the eyes of many fans when compared to Maradona, who majestically inspired La Albiceleste to glory at the 1986 World Cup.

"People talk about both, but Maradona's Argentina were stronger and had more quality than Messi's," Capello told Radio Marca.

"He's had good players in front of him, but in midfield and behind he has missed a defence. That's the important problem.

"Messi is extraordinary, he lives thinking about playing and not about business, like for example Neymar does."

Messi's compatriot and Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone agrees his country's problems lie with the collective.

"Messi can find a solution in a game at any time but he needs a team," Simeone told Fox Sports.

"The players who are with Messi have to understand the potential they have, which is huge and it's in the personality of each player.

"[Messi] needs each one of those who make up the team to feel secure and confident when they are around him.

"I have no doubt about Messi's class and stature, and he is going to adapt to any situation because he wants to win."

Lionel Scaloni said it was like Argentina's Copa America campaign had not yet started as his side look to bounce back against Paraguay on Wednesday.

Argentina slumped to a disappointing 2-0 loss to Colombia in their opening game, leaving them bottom of Group B and in danger of an early exit.

Scaloni said his players had taken the defeat as expected and he is anticipating a response in Belo Horizonte.

"The Copa for us is like it has not started yet. The group is doing well, assimilating the defeat as it should," he told a news conference.

"We would have liked to have started in another way, but the players are clear that there are two games to play."

Scaloni was unwilling to name his starting XI on Tuesday, but there were elements of his side's performance against Colombia he was pleased with.

The former Argentina international hopes to see his team become more consistent over 90 minutes when they face Paraguay, who drew 2-2 with Qatar in their first outing.

"Most winning teams haven't dominated as we did in those 30 minutes with Colombia," Scaloni said.

"If we had scored, our situation would be different. Unfortunately, we didn't score and paid for it."

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.

Paraguay will hope last week's friendly win over Guatemala is the catalyst for a successful Copa America after what has been a challenging two years.

Eduardo Berizzo's side had failed to win in seven games before Sunday's routine victory – a run that stretched back to October 2017.

They face Asian Cup champions Qatar in their opening fixture and given that Argentina and Colombia are the other sides in Group B, Berizzo knows anything other than three points will make their chances of progression to the knock-out stages extremely difficult.

Along with Japan, Qatar have been invited to the tournament by CONMEBOL to bring the number of teams to 12.

Felix Sanchez's side surprised many when they went all the way in the Asian Cup at the start of the year, ultimately defeating Japan in the final to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.

Sanchez sees the Copa America as the perfect opportunity for his players to test themselves against quality opposition as they prepare to host the World Cup in 2022.

"Clearly the goal is to have a good national team in the World Cup," he explained. "The important thing is that the players will gain experience at the Copa America.

"They are accustomed to being strong and competitive. They are successful too, but our plan is to give the players the maximum opportunities to prepare for the World Cup in 2022."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Paraguay – Miguel Almiron

The Newcastle United man made his first appearance in more than seven weeks against Guatemala after recovering from a hamstring injury. If he can stay fit, he will be expected to be the supply line for the likes of Oscar Cardozo and Derlis Gonzalez in attack.

Qatar – Almoez Ali 

The 22-year-old enjoyed a spectacular Asian Cup, with his nine goals more than twice as many as any other player scored in the tournament. Another successful campaign in Brazil could see some big clubs show an interest in the Al-Duhail forward.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Paraguay and Qatar have met three times in all competitions, with one win for each side and one draw.
- Paraguay have won only one of their last eight meetings with Asian countries (drawn three, lost four), losing each of the last three.
- Copa America 2019 will mark Paraguay's 21st consecutive appearance in this tournament (37th in total), the longest ongoing run of all sides. They last failed to appear in 1957, when they withdrew.
- Qatar will be competing in the Copa America for the very first time, becoming the 19th different participant in the competition’s history – ninth outside of CONMEBOL and second outside of the Americas (Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, Honduras, Panama, Japan, Jamaica, Haiti and the 10 CONMEBOL nations complete the list of participants).
- Paraguay made it at least to the semi-finals in two of the last three Copa America editions (runners-up 2011, semi-finals 2015), despite winning only one of the 15 games played in those three campaigns (1-0 v Jamaica, in 2015).

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.

Brazil will be under pressure to erase memories of the 2014 World Cup by winning this year's Copa America on home soil, while Lionel Messi and Argentina have a score of their own to settle following disappointment in Russia 12 months ago.

On one of Brazilian football's darkest days, the Selecao were humiliatingly crushed 7-1 by Germany as hosts in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals and they fell a stage earlier in Russia last year.

Argentina were even more underwhelming at the 2018 World Cup than their rivals, finding themselves eliminated in the last 16, with their performances resulting in a major overhaul of the coaching staff and squad.

An ageing Chile will do well to win a third successive title, but both of the favourites have plenty of baggage heading into the tournament.

Can Messi end Argentina's long wait?

Messi's lack of success on the international stage is well-documented and routinely used as a stick to beat him with in the never-ending "greatest player of all time" debate.

"I want to end my career having won something with the national team, or at least try to do so as many times as possible," Messi said to Fox Sports in a recent interview.

He cannot be accused of not trying, having helped his country to four major finals. The past two were in the most recent Copa America editions, losing on penalties to Chile both times.

Argentina have not won a Copa America since 1993, and Messi, 32, is running out of time to be the one who brings them international success again.

Brazil without their poster boy

A big boost to Argentina's chances was the news Brazil talisman Neymar will miss the tournament with an ankle injury, a massive blow for the hosts and favourites.

Nevertheless, such a situation opens the door to others to impress, and in Richarlison, Everton and David Neres, Tite has plenty of options at his disposal.

But Neymar's injury – however crucial in the long run – will not be a valid excuse if Brazil fail again on home soil as they did at the World Cup in 2014.

The pressure is on and the likes of Philippe Coutinho will be expected to carry Brazil to success.

Low expectations for the holders

Back-to-back champions Chile will be under significantly less pressure, however, despite their recent successes in the Copa America.

Coach Reinaldo Rueda has plenty of experience at his disposal, with six centurions in the squad and 11 players who are aged 30 or older.

But there is a startling lack of young talent coming through in Chile presently, with 24-year-old defender Paulo Diaz the youngest outfield player in the selection.

In previous editions such issues might have been ignored given the qualities of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, but neither – particularly the latter – are what they once were.

Guest nations out to spoil the party

CONMEBOL has regularly invited guest nations to participate in their showpiece tournament, but for only the second time there will be representatives from countries outside of the Americas playing.

Japan – who also featured in 1999 – and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar will take their respective places in Group C and Group B, hoping to cause something of an upset.

Qatar won their first Asian Cup title earlier this year and Almoez Ali will be key to their chances of making it out of the group.

Expectations are rather more modest for Japan, however, as coach Hajime Moriyasu has taken a squad mostly made up of players who will be eligible to feature at next year's Olympics.

Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron faces a race against time to be fit for the Copa America after injuring a hamstring in Newcastle United's victory over Southampton on Saturday.

Almiron was withdrawn after 64 minutes of the game at St. James' Park and the club have announced he will subsequently miss the final three games of the Premier League season.

Of greater importance is his participation in the South American showpiece which gets underway in Brazil in June.

Paraguay were drawn in Group B alongside Argentina, Colombia and Qatar and will be hoping the 25-year-old, who was sent-off on his last international appearance - a 4-2 defeat to Mexico last month - can recover in time.

A Newcastle statement read: "Miguel Almiron will miss the rest of the season after suffering a hamstring injury in Saturday's 3-1 win over Southampton.

"The 25-year-old was withdrawn in the 64th minute against the Saints and having been assessed by the club's medical staff, it has been confirmed that he will not be fit for the Magpies' final three matches of the campaign.

"The club have already been in communication with - and will continue to liaise with - the Paraguayan Football Association ahead of this summer's Copa America, which the player could still feature in depending on his recovery."

Newcastle splashed out a reported club-record fee of £21million to sign Almiron from Atlanta United in January and, although his performances have been warmly received, he is yet to register an assist or score a goal in 10 league appearances.

Jonathan dos Santos ended his wait for a first international goal, scoring in Mexico's 4-2 win over Paraguay in a friendly in California on Tuesday.

Dos Santos finally netted his maiden goal for Mexico, opening the scoring at Levi's Stadium in his 40th appearance for his nation.

In Gerardo Martino's second game in charge, Mexico claimed their victory on the back of a strong start, with a Gustavo Gomez own goal and Javier Hernandez strike following Dos Santos' opener.

Hernan Perez pulled a goal back for Paraguay in the second half before substitute Miguel Almiron's red card, and Derlis Gonzalez's effort gave them some hope.

However, Luis Montes sealed Mexico's win in additional time.

After a victory over Chile, Martino opted for changes – making 10 in total to his starting line-up.

But it seemed to have no impact on Mexico as they made a dream start, scoring twice in the opening nine minutes.

Dos Santos opened the scoring after Edson Alvarez – the only player backing up for Mexico – tried to pick out Hernandez, a Paraguayan defender's clearance falling for the LA Galaxy man to volley in smartly from close range.

Paraguay produced some more poor defending to fall 2-0 behind through a Gomez own goal.

Hernandez fed a pass to Erick Gutierrez on the left side of the area and his cross was turned in by Gomez.

Just as Paraguay looked for a way back into the contest, Hernandez scored his 51st international goal to extend Mexico's lead.

Gutierrez found Dos Santos, whose first-time pass released Hernandez to finish clinically in a one-on-one with Antony Silva.

It should have been 4-0 in the 53rd minute, but Gutierrez struck the post with an effort from near the penalty spot after a cross from the right.

Instead, Paraguay pulled a goal back through Perez, who drilled in a pass from Oscar Romero just before the hour-mark for his second international strike.

However, their chances of an incredible comeback were dealt a blow when Newcastle United midfielder Almiron was sent off seven minutes after coming on for a poor challenge on Jose Juan Vazquez.

Paraguay found a second goal when Gonzalez struck from inside the area in the 84th minute after a poor turnover deep in defence, but Montes sealed Mexico's win following an Alexis Vega flick-on, although the goal should have been ruled out for offside.

 

What does it mean? Martino's Mexico making quick progress

While a win over Chile in Martino's first game in charge was impressive, the first-half display against Paraguay was even more so. Mexico were clinical and looked dangerous, but unlike during their victory over Chile, they appeared in control for longer periods.

Dos Santos grabs chance

Dos Santos is yet to shine for Mexico, but he took a major step on Tuesday. The 28-year-old scored his first international goal and also set up Hernandez's strike with a nice pass in a performance sure to keep him in Martino's plans.

Rough start for Berizzo

Starting something of a rebuild of Paraguay, former Sevilla coach Eduardo Berizzo suffered defeats in his first two games in charge. However, Matias Rojas was handed a starting debut, while the likes of Santiago Arzamendia and Carlos Gonzalez were also in the XI and picked up their first international caps. Pleasingly for Berizzo, Paraguay continued to fight, although their efforts defensively would have been a worry.

What's next?

Mexico look to continue their strong start under Martino when they face Venezuela and Ecuador in June, while Paraguay are not scheduled to be in action until the Copa America, although they may opt for at least one friendly before the tournament starts.

Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay have agreed to launch a joint bid to host the World Cup in 2030, it has been confirmed.

Chile's president Sebastian Pinera announced the move via social media on Thursday, with Uruguay bidding to host the tournament for the first time since the inaugural 1930 competition.

Morocco, Spain, and Portugal have already signalled their intention to jointly host the event, as have Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania.

But those two efforts will face competition from a shared South American bid after Pinera confirmed successful talks with other regional leaders.

"The presidents of the Argentine Republic, Mauricio Macri; of the republic of Chile, Sebastian Pinera; from the republic of Paraguay, Mario Abdo; and of the oriental republic of Uruguay, Tabare Vazquez; agreed to present their joint candidacy to organize the 2030 World Cup," Pinera posted on Twitter.

"The presidents, through the four respective Football Associations (AFA, ANFP, AFP and AUF), decided to raise to FIFA, after communicating it to CONMEBOL, the shared position to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup, organised by Uruguay in 1930.

"A few months ago I proposed to the presidents of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to incorporate Chile, and together, apply to the organisation of the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

"This proposal was accepted by the three countries and by the Chilean ANFP. After the World Cup of 1962, Chile will have a new opportunity."

Argentina last hosted the World Cup in 1978, winning the tournament on home soil, while the event has never been to Paraguay.

President of the Uruguayan FA Wilmar Valdez previously called for a joint bid with Argentina to be set up.

The 2022 World Cup is controversially set to be held in Qatar, with the United States, Mexico and Canada teaming up to host four years later.

Juan Carlos Osorio stepped down as head coach of Paraguay after just one match in charge, it was announced.

Osorio was set to lead South American nation Paraguay at this year's Copa America in Brazil following his appointment in September.

However, the 57-year-old former Mexico boss cited personal reasons for his decision to leave his post on Wednesday.

"For my own family reasons, unfortunately I can't continue in the job," said Osorio.

"I'd like to thank you all for your support. It brought me pride to manage, lead and train the national team."

Osorio's only fixture in charge saw Paraguay play out a 1-1 draw with South Africa in October.

Paraguay will face Argentina, Colombia and Qatar at the Copa America, which gets underway in June.

Osorio guided Mexico to the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where El Tri upstaged holders Germany en route to the knockout phase.

Brazil and Argentina successfully avoided Chile in the draw for the group stage of the 2019 Copa America.

Jose Pekerman has left his post as Colombia coach after transforming their international fortunes over the course of nearly seven years in charge.

Paraguay have appointed Juan Carlos Osorio as their new coach following his World Cup exploits with Mexico. 

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