Neymar will miss his meeting with Lionel Messi after being ruled out of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Argentina due to an adductor injury, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced.

Brazil – already assured of a Qatar 2022 berth – will meet Argentina in San Juan on Tuesday, with a win for Messi's men all but guaranteeing World Cup qualification.

After coming off the bench against Uruguay last time out, Messi will definitely play a part for Copa America champions Argentina, according to head coach Lionel Scaloni.

However, Brazil superstar and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar – who teed up Lucas Paqueta for the winning goal against Colombia – will not be involved because of a thigh injury.

"After training at the Palmeiras Football Academy this Monday morning, athlete Neymar Jr. complained of pain in the adductor region of his left thigh," the CBF said.

"Neymar Jr. reported insecurity with the situation and because there was not enough time to carry out complementary exams, the technical committee chose to preserve the player, who will not travel with the Brazilian team's delegation to San Juan, location of Tuesday's game against Argentina."

Brazil and Argentina will meet for the first time since September's World Cup qualifier was sensationally abandoned in Sao Paulo.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso – amid travel restrictions.

Despite the rulings, Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were all starters for Argentina, with Brazilian health officials quickly acting by entering the pitch shortly after the match had started.

A subsequent melee ensued, and the visitors eventually left the field and did not return, Brazil playing out a training fixture among one another.

Looking ahead to Tuesday's showdown, Brazil head coach Tite told reporters: "It is hard to get the dimension of it. I don’t know how it was from the Argentinian side of it. Everything that happened. I am sorry about the fact that the match didn't happen.

"But now we have all the facts and understand why it didn't happen. I have all this very clear: before football, health is more important, laws exist and the correction of the facts. All these happened. I don't know how they face this situation because it is very particular.

"I can say that Brazil v Argentina is a huge match. Historically, it is huge. A lot of quality on both sides. The two best campaigns, a lot of technical quality individually from both teams."

Lionel Scaloni has confirmed Lionel Messi will definitely play a part in Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

The rival nations meet for the first time since this year's Copa America final, which Argentina won 1-0, when they face off in San Juan on Tuesday.

Both teams have identical records since that final, each winning five of their six qualifiers. A clash between the pair in Sao Paulo in September was suspended due to coronavirus restrictions relating to Argentina's England-based players.

Already-qualified Brazil sit top of the CONMEBOL standings on 34 points, six clear of Scaloni's team, who defeated Uruguay on Friday.

Given the 12-point gap between Argentina and fifth-placed Colombia, who occupy the play-off spot, a win would all but guarantee their place in Qatar next year. Dropped points for two of Chile, versus Ecuador, Colombia, against Paraguay, and Uruguay, in Bolivia, would make the picture clearer still.

Messi, whose selection in Argentina's squad "did not make sense" – according to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo – due to the 34-year-old's recent injury issues, came on as a 76th-minute substitute in the win over Uruguay.

Scaloni explained he had used Messi sparingly in order to keep him in top condition for Tuesday's clash with Brazil, and the coach confirmed in his pre-match news conference the former Barcelona superstar would certainly play, albeit he did not reveal if he would start.

"It is confirmed that Messi will play tomorrow," Scaloni told reporters on Monday.

On the challenge his team face, Scaloni said: "This Brazilian team is one of the most direct in recent times.

"They have already qualified for the World Cup, and we know how difficult this game is going to be.

"You have to always play the same, it is not worth it for me that a player of mine plays in one way against Venezuela and another against Brazil. Football is always the same regardless of the rival.

"I don't think the rest of the rivals in the qualifiers are less than Brazil. They are all very difficult games.

"There are always things to correct. Our goal is that the players do not relax, that they know that there are things to improve."

While Messi will play, Argentina may be without Paulo Dybala, who was taken off at half-time against Uruguay.

"Paulo came with a blow and at half-time of the game we decided to take him out, it was not worth risking it. Now we are waiting to see what [injury] he has," Scaloni added.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni says he used Lionel Messi off the bench for 15 minutes in Friday's 1-0 win in Uruguay with an eye to Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

Messi had missed the past two games at club level for Paris Saint-Germain with knee and hamstring issues but was used as a 76th-minute substitute against Uruguay.

Scaloni had said in the lead-up to the game that Messi was "good" and "wants to play" but explained afterwards he used him for limited minutes with a view to getting him ready to face Brazil, who are top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying standings.

"His entry in the second half serves to get the rhythm ahead of the game with Brazil," Scaloni said during the news conference, when asked about Messi's cameo.

"We decided not to play him in the starting line-up because he's coming off some inactivity and the game was going to be like the one that happened."

The win was Argentina's first in Uruguay in 12 years, extending their unbeaten run to 26 games and was a "giant step" towards World Cup qualification according to Scaloni.

Scaloni said Argentina had won "without playing well" against Uruguay, who he claimed forced the game to be played on their terms.

"There are times when you can't play well because your opponent plays and proposes a type of game, and you have to adapt," he said.

"We adapted to the match that took place. That is a good sign as a team."

Argentina are second in qualifying on 28 points from 12 games, behind Brazil on 34 points from the same number of games. La Albiceleste hold a 12-point buffer on fifth-placed Colombia in the play-offs spot in fifth.

Argentina are on the cusp of World Cup qualification after extending their unbeaten streak to 26 games by edging Uruguay 1-0.

Angel Di Maria was the difference away to rivals Uruguay, his sublime seventh-minute strike lifting second-placed Argentina to victory on Friday.

Argentina – who tied their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying record after going eight matches unbeaten on the road – are one win away from booking their spot at Qatar 2022 heading into Tuesday's showdown against Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 during last month's international window, after La Celeste failed to make the most of their chances against the Copa America champions.

It was a similar story on home soil in Montevideo, where Uruguay lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, despite Luis Suarez's best efforts.

With Lionel Messi on the bench, Di Maria wore the captain's armband and Argentina's stand-in skipper broke the deadlock in the seventh minute.

Giovani Lo Celso won possession and laid the ball to Di Maria, who curled a stunning shot into the top corner of the net.

Uruguay continued to press numbers forward and they had a chance to restore parity approaching half-time after Matias Vecino's brilliant turn created space for a shot, however it was easily dealt with by Emiliano Martinez.

Martinez was left scrambling as Facundo Torres' tricky cross almost looped over the Argentina goalkeeper before he palmed it behind for a corner in the 63rd minute.

As Uruguay pushed forward in search of an equaliser, it created more space for Argentina to attack and the visitors engineered a couple of decent openings before Messi was introduced off the bench during the closing stages.

With the minutes ticking down, Agustin Alvarez headed just over the bar for Uruguay, while Martinez almost saw the ball slip through his legs and into the net as the hosts' World Cup hopes remain in the balance.

Lionel Messi linking up with the Argentina squad while not fully fit "does not make sense", according to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo.

The 34-year-old has endured an injury-plagued start to his PSG career since arriving on a shock free transfer three months ago after leaving Barcelona.

After sitting out last week's draw with RB Leipzig and win over Bordeaux with knee and hamstring injuries, Messi has now featured in just eight of PSG's 18 matches this season.

Despite his niggling injury issues in recent months, Messi has been included in Argentina's squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil over the next eight days.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday he is happy for his compatriot to play for La Albiceleste as it will give him an opportunity to build up his fitness.

However, Leonardo is not pleased with Argentina's decision to call up the forward and has urged world football governing body FIFA to get involved. 

"We do not agree to release a player for national team selection who, for us, is not in physical condition or who is in the rehabilitation phase," he is quoted as saying by Le Parisien. 

"It does not make sense, and this type of situation is worthy of a ruling from FIFA."

 

Messi has played just 325 minutes of Ligue 1 action for PSG, compared to 450 minutes for Argentina across their qualifying fixtures in September and October, not including the suspended match with Brazil.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has registered three goals in his first eight appearances for the French giants but has yet to score or assist in the league.

He has had 15 shots without finding the net in Ligue 1, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9.

Only Clermont midfielder Jim Allevinah (16) and Troyes forward Renaud Ripart (19) have had more shots without scoring in the French top flight this term.

Indeed, Messi has netted more times for Argentina in 2021-22 than he has for PSG, with four goals in five appearances.

France were delighted to welcome back a home crowd at the Stade de France for Saturday's Test against Argentina, but captain Antoine Dupont suggested the occasion contributed to their sloppy play.

Les Bleus were playing a home Test for the first time since crowds returned following the coronavirus shutdown.

Dupont and his team-mates were able to celebrate the reunion with a win, edging Los Pumas 29-20 despite having to wait until the 50th minute for the first try through Thibaud Flament.

Melvyn Jaminet's work from the tee had kept France in the match up to that point and he finished with five penalties along with successful conversions from both tries.

But Dupont recognised Les Bleus lacked discipline in their opening November international, referring to "a lot of mistakes" in a post-match interview with France Tele.

"The victory is there but we are able to do much better," the stand-in skipper added.

"It also felt good to no longer sing the Marseillaise alone in a stadium. It's been a long time since we've played together.

"There was a lot of appetite and enthusiasm on everyone's part, which led to small mistakes but it was for good reason."

Lionel Messi has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Bordeaux through injury, but the forward is expected to be available for Argentina's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was replaced at half-time in PSG's 2-1 comeback win over Lille last week and subsequently missed Wednesday's 2-2 draw with RB Leipzig in the Champions League.

The Barcelona legend is continuing to struggle with a knee and hamstring issue and will not be risked against Bordeaux on Saturday as Mauricio Pochettino's side look to tighten their grip on top spot.

Messi also missed a string of games upon joining PSG from Barca in August, but Pochettino is hopeful his compatriot can return to action during Argentina's games with Uruguay and Brazil over the next fortnight.

"Lionel's not available on Saturday and will not travel with us," Pochettino said at Friday's pre-match news conference. "We hope that he'll be available for Argentina and return to us afterwards."

Messi has had 15 shots in Ligue 1 without finding the net since arriving on a free transfer from Barcelona, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9, with his only three goals for PSG coming in the Champions League.

 

The superstar forward is not alone in enduring a frustrating start to a new career outside of Spain, with team-mate Sergio Ramos yet to feature for the club since joining on a free transfer from Real Madrid in July.

Reports from France this week suggested PSG chiefs are growing restless with Ramos on his road to recovery, but the experienced centre-back is now closing in on a return to action.

PSG confirmed on their official website on Friday that Ramos is set to take part in full training next week, potentially meaning he could make his long-awaited debut against Nantes on November 20.

Pochettino's side are eight points clear at the top of the table, but they have often had to rely on late goals to pick up victories and were held by Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek.

Despite that setback, Pochettino is happy with the progress made by his side since he took charge at the start of the year.

Indeed, PSG have won 76 per cent of their Ligue 1 games in 2021 (25 of 33) – only Manchester City (26 of 34) have a better success rate in the top five European leagues over the year.

"I am a satisfied coach," Pochettino said. "The commitment is there to see, though there is the requirement to do better each game. If we score 100 goals, we want more; if we stop a penalty, we want to stop two.

"Today I am satisfied with the state of mind. If the results are there, it's because there is will. We know that the performances will get better and better.

"We are progressing collectively and individually. We have recruited many players and have a squad of 33. We are in a process of construction and have to tackle the priorities, such as helping players adapt.

"From there we can develop a way of playing based on a collective organisation and solid foundations. As a coach I want to win every match 5-0, to have 75 per cent possession, to play attacking and recover the ball as quickly as possible.

"But this is a long process, this is not something I think about while I sleep."

PSG are unbeaten in their last 12 Ligue 1 meetings with Bordeaux and have scored at least once in their last 17 meetings in the competition.

Former Argentina head coach Alfio Basile has criticised "messy" Paris Saint-Germain's use of Lionel Messi and says the Ligue 1 side have "a weak defence".

Barcelona's financial difficulties forced Messi to find a new club, eventually joining PSG on a free transfer in August. 

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner got off to a slow start in France, scoring just once in his first four appearances across all competitions and missing several games due to injury.

Basile, who had two spells in charge of Argentina (1991-1994 and 2006-2008), winning two Copa Americas and a FIFA Confederations Cup in a successful first stint, hit out at how PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino was deploying Messi.

"The problem that Messi has is that at PSG, he is playing on the right and with Argentina, he plays everywhere, he makes everyone play." Basile said to SuperMitre.

The former Barca superstar, who won the Copa America with Argentina in July and was named the player of the tournament after registering the most goals and assists, enjoyed a breakthrough evening for his new club as PSG beat RB Leipzig 3-2 on Tuesday, scoring twice.

Basile was scathing in his assessment of the Ligue 1 giants as a team, however, pointing out their defensive organisation as a particular problem.

"PSG have a very weak defence and are very messy," Basile added.

PSG have the seventh-worst expected goals against total in the Champions League so far this season (5.39) but have only conceded three goals, keeping one clean sheet.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi hit out at the referee, despite the in-form Copa America champions' 1-0 win against Peru in World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's header two minutes before half-time settled Thursday's contest in Buenos Aires, where La Albiceleste extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches across all competitions.

Peru wasted a chance to salvage a point when Yoshimar Yotun's penalty cannoned off the crossbar with 25 minutes remaining.

Messi reacted to Argentina remaining undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 through 11 CONMEBOL fixtures, though it remains to be seen what he was referring to when mentioning the referee after Martinez had also gone down inside the area in the first half.

"Difficult match, difficult to play. A lot of wind, they were playing deep, leaving little space for us," Messi wrote via Instagram.

"The referee always does this when he referee's us, as if he does it on purpose. But well, three important points and we're close to our objective."

Martinez scored his 17th international goal and the Inter star is Argentina's top scorer in the Lionel Scaloni era, two ahead of Messi.

"The play against Uruguay was more fluid, there was more space. It got complicated for us a little but we always tried to have a solution and today, we knew how to find that," Martinez said.

"Every time we go out on the pitch, we try to give our all because this shirt deserves respect and responsibility. All of this is exciting, my family saw me play again after a long time. Today, they're here again. I hope that the people have enjoyed the win."

Argentina head coach Scaloni became the second coach in the history of the national team to go 25 games unbeaten in all competitions, after Alfio Basile.

"Today we felt a bit tired. Playing a triple date in South America is wearisome," added Scaloni. "We took it forward and got the three points, which is what we wanted.

"It was a very important game and there was tension for that. I do not think that Argentina was satisfied with the result. Peru plays well, it is a very difficult opponent. Beyond the penalty play, I think the game was controlled."

Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 25 matches after Lautaro Martinez secured a 1-0 victory over Peru in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Lautaro Martinez's 43rd-minute header settled the contest as Argentina stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 on Thursday.

Peru had the chance to snatch a point away from home, but Yoshimar Yotun's 65th-minute penalty cannoned off the woodwork in Buenos Aires.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – second in the standings – temporarily moved within three points of leaders Brazil through 11 qualifying fixtures.

Argentina made a bright start to proceedings at the Monumental, with Rodrigo De Paul in the thick of the action as the hosts saw two shots flash across goal inside four minutes.

Gianluca Lapadula's free-kick forced in-form Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez into an early save, while La Albiceleste found the back of the net in the ninth minute, but Cristian Romero's header was ruled offside following a lengthy VAR review.

In a team headlined by Lionel Messi, De Paul continued to pull the strings with some wonderful passing and he was the centre of Argentina's opener prior to half-time.

De Paul played a neat one-two with Nahuel Molina and the latter picked out Lautaro Martinez, whose wonderful header beat Pedro Gallese two minutes before the break.

Jefferson Farfan came off the bench to make his 100th international appearance – the 36-year-old becoming the sixth Peru player to reach the century club.

He made an immediate impact, earning a penalty after being brought down by Emiliano Martinez but Yotun rattled the crossbar with his spot-kick.

Messi was largely subdued by Peru, though his free-kick 20 minutes from the end forced a save from Gallese.

What does it mean? Argentina go from strength to strength

Argentina were on their knees when Scaloni took charge of the embattled South American giants. Now Copa America champions, Argentina have not lost since July 2019.

De Paul enhances reputation

The Atletico Madrid midfielder has quickly become a key part of Scaloni's XI. De Paul dazzled in the first half with 63 touches of the ball – the most among both teams. He also earned four fouls while completing 36 passes and four crosses in the opening 45 minutes.

Peru's drought continues

Peru have not gone 17 matches without winning against Argentina in World Cup qualifiers, dating back to 1985. The result condemned Peru to back-to-back defeats as they fight to qualify for next year's showpiece.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action next month when they travel to Uruguay on November 10, while Peru welcome Bolivia on the same day.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni believes superstar captain Lionel Messi is thriving in the current national team environment with the 2021 Copa America champions.

Messi has been criticised in the past for his performances for Argentina, which have paled in comparison to his club output, dominating with Barcelona up until 2021 having won a club-record 35 trophies and become the LaLiga giants' all-time leading goalscorer.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner led Argentina to their first piece of silverware in 28 years after La Albiceleste dethroned rivals Brazil in July's Copa America final, while Scaloni's side are well on their way to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, unbeaten across 10 matches.

"It is very difficult that [Messi] has not performed with the national team," Scaloni told a news conference ahead of Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier with Peru.

"There will be moments and team moments and I think that's the most important thing in the end."

Paris Saint-Germain's Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th international goal was as Argentina eased past Uruguay 3-0 on Sunday.

"The team is the one that takes the situation forward, the one that makes him even better," Scaloni added. "I think he is good in the team and comfortable with his team-mates. All of this makes it even better.

"It is clear that without the team his performance is not so reflected. Today we are doing well as a group, as a team and that is what is most important."

Scaloni also welcomed Sergio Aguero closing in on a return to fitness, having featured in a Barcelona training match on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old, who was part of Argentina's Copa success, has not played for Barcelona since his off-season move from Premier League champions Manchester City due to a calf injury.

Argentina – second in the qualifying standing – have only netted 18 goals in 10 qualifiers with Aguero potentially boosting their attacking options for November's scheduled games against Uruguay and Brazil.

"The case for him, as with the other boys who have not been able to play, the most important thing is that they compete in their club and make things difficult for us," Scaloni said.

"We have a team of enormous hierarchy, a team of great forwards and the final decision is the most difficult. What interests us is that they play for their club, that they perform well and we will have time to make the decision.

"Logically, we like them to play and that they are in continuity and we expect that from the boys who are not there."

Lionel Messi believes Argentina are continuing to improve on the back of their Copa America success, but the superstar forward was grateful to Emiliano Martinez for helping his side to victory against Uruguay.

Argentina's all-time leading scorer Messi was on the scoresheet alongside Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez as the Albiceleste secured a 3-0 win in Sunday's World Cup qualifier to move within six points of group leaders Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's men are now unbeaten in 24 games in all competitions, a run that includes a 1-0 win over Brazil in July's Copa America final and 10 games without defeat in their qualifying campaign on the road to Qatar 2022.

However, it may have been a different story against Uruguay had Emiliano Martinez not produced two big saves to keep out Luis Suarez with the game all square, the Aston Villa man going on to make six stops in total at El Monumental.

And Messi singled out the goalkeeper for particular praise after his side returned to winning ways on the back of Thursday's goalless draw with Paraguay.

"He is fundamental for us," Messi said. "When the pressure is on, he always responds. He did that again today. We know we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and we are making the most of it. 

"Uruguay had clear opportunities to score, even though we were in control. That's the sort of team they are. They are able to create danger out of nothing."

 

Argentina are now unbeaten at home under Scaloni in seven games in all competitions and have yet to lose at home to Uruguay in World Cup qualifying in six matches, winning the last five of those.

They are on the verge of booking a place at Qatar 2022 and Messi, whose six goals is level with Neymar and behind Bolivia's Moreno Martinez (eight) in the CONMEBOL top-scorers chart, is pleased with the strides being taken by his side.

"I think we are improving a lot in terms of the way we are playing and the way we are keeping possession," he said. 

"We knew the results of the other qualifiers and that we needed to take six points from our next two home games. The fans here are great and it is beautiful to play here."

Argentina conclude their triple-header of October qualifiers with a home match against Peru on Thursday, before travelling to Uruguay on their return to action next month.

Lionel Messi added to his record international tally as Argentina eased past rivals Uruguay 3-0 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th goal in an Argentina jersey on Sunday.

Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer saw his attempted outside-of-the-boot pass find the back of the net in the 38th minute before Rodrigo de Paul doubled the lead six minutes later, while Lautaro Martinez sealed the victory in the 62nd minute.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina remain unbeaten through 10 qualifiers on the road to Qatar 2022 – six points behind leaders Brazil as they extended their undefeated run to 24 games across all competitions.

Uruguay entered the match without a win against Argentina since 2013, while La Albiceleste had never lost a home World Cup qualifier to La Celeste amid a run of five consecutive victories.

But Uruguay made a bright start in Buenos Aires, where talisman Luis Suarez was in the thick of the action.

Suarez and Uruguay were unfortunate to not score at least twice in the first half, with Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez proving an unbeatable object.

Martinez thwarted Suarez twice with two big saves, while the latter saw his acrobatic volley cannon off the post on the half-hour mark.

Argentina went close to breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute following a swift counter-attack, however, Giovani Lo Celso's effort struck the crossbar.

The opener did come via Messi, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, after his attempted pass ended up in the back of the net seven minutes prior to half-time.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead into the interval when De Paul tucked away a rebound a minute before the break.

Uruguay introduced Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez at half-time in attempt to spark a comeback but Argentina could not be stopped as space opened up.

Lautaro Martinez – back in the starting line-up – made it 3-0 just past the hour after finding himself unmarked at the back post following De Paul's low ball across the six-yard box.

Argentina almost had a fourth with 22 minutes remaining, however, Fernando Muslera got down well to save Joaquin Correa's close-range shot and the Uruguay goalkeeper was on hand again to thwart Angel Di Maria six minutes later.

What does it mean? No stopping Scaloni's men

Bouncing back from their goalless draw away to Paraguay last time out, Copa America champions Argentina have not lost since 2019.

Magical Messi

Even when Messi assists, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scores. He has scored four goals in his last three games for Argentina. Messi now has six goals during this World Cup qualifying campaign, level with Brazil's Neymar and two behind leading scorer Moreno Martinez of Bolivia.

Uruguay's drought continues

Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay are still searching for their first World Cup qualifying win away to Argentina. Despite boasting Suarez, Cavani and Nunez, Uruguay have now failed to score in back-to-back games while they have only managed one from their past three. In total, Uruguay have scored 13 goals and conceded as many on the roar to Qatar 2022.

What's next?

Argentina will conclude this international window with the visit of Peru on Thursday as Uruguay travel to Brazil on the same day.

Lionel Messi's Argentina were frustrated in a goalless draw away to Paraguay in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Argentina had their chances against Paraguay in Asuncion, but the Copa America champions could not find the breakthrough on Thursday.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina, though, remain unbeaten in second position after nine matchdays on the road to Qatar 2022 and undefeated across 23 games across all competitions.

Messi was entering the contest on the back of his record-breaking exploits during the last international break after surpassing Brazil great Pele (77) as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation with his hat-trick against Bolivia.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar looked lively away to Paraguay, creating a great opportunity for Argentina to break the deadlock in the 11th minute.

Messi, who had received 437 passes in CONMEBOL qualifying – the most by any player in the campaign – weaved his way past defenders and slid a ball through to Lautaro Martinez, whose goal-bound effort was somehow cleared off the line by a scrambling Omar Alderete ahead of Angel Di Maria.

Argentina were largely in control in the opening half, though Paraguay had some moments in the attacking third.

Another chance went begging for Argentina within five minutes of the second half getting underway, Rodrigo de Paul's ball across the six-yard box somehow evading his team-mates.

Paraguay almost took a surprise lead four minutes later after Miguel Almiron's turn of pace created an opening, but Emiliano Martinez was up to the task to deny the Newcastle United star.

Di Maria picked out Joaquin Correa at the back post on the hour mark, however, some desperate defending blocked the Argentina forward's goal-bound header.

Martinez was kept rather busy in the second half, but the in-form goalkeeper continued to thwart Paraguay, who were searching for their first home World Cup qualifying win against Argentina since 2009.

Antony Silva produced a fabulous sequence to deny Argentina during the closing stages, first dealing with Guido Rodriguez's header before pushing Papu Gomez's long-range effort onto the crossbar seven minutes from the end, while Carlos Gonzalez almost snatched victory for Paraguay in the 88th minute.

 

What does it mean? Unbeaten run continues

While Argentina were unable to secure maximum points, the South American champions have not tasted defeat since 2019.

Goalkeepers flex muscles

It was a showdown between two goalkeepers at the top of their game. Martinez came up big for Argentina in the second half, while Paraguay counterpart Silva was not to be overshadowed in a strong display.

Paraguay struggling for home form

While Paraguay would have probably taken a point before the match, their home woes continue. Paraguay have only won one of their past eight World Cup qualifiers on home soil, dating back to March 2017.

What's next?

Argentina are back in action for the visit of Uruguay on Monday, while Paraguay are away to Chile on the same day.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said superstar captain Lionel Messi is clear to face Paraguay in La Albiceleste's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier.

Messi missed two matches due to a knee injury before returning for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League win over Manchester City and last week's shock Ligue 1 loss at Rennes.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is away on international duty with Argentina, who will visit Paraguay on Thursday, and Messi has been given the all-clear to play.

"Messi trained with us yesterday [Tuesday] without any problems and this morning too, so he's fine to play," Scaloni told reporters on Wednesday.

"Which is the most important thing and he's like the rest of the group, wanting to get together and do the best for the national team. Regarding his injury, it is evident that he has played two games before coming here and this is fine."

During the last international break, Messi surpassed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation.

Messi scored a hat-trick for Copa America champions Argentina in their 3-0 qualifying win over Bolivia last month, the 34-year-old taking his tally to 79 international goals.

Argentina – second behind Brazil in the standings – remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar 2022 with five wins from their eight fixtures, while they extended their undefeated streak to 22 matches across all competitions.

"The challenge that we have, or that I have in this case as a coach, is that the team competes in all the games and, that the things that I know that are done well, do it again or strengthen them and that they can be improved and tried in training even if they are few, and try to put a lot of emphasis on that," Scaloni said.

"We believe that in a collective level the national team has a fairly regular performance and I think that at an individual level it is evident that we have players who decide matches, but in a collective level I think that we have improved a lot in that and that one of the things in which the team does is give the feeling that that is always why, because we work as a team and because whoever enters or leaves knows very well what they have to do and I think that is the most important thing.

"Then there are things to improve on like all teams and even more so that we have very few days together. But our feeling is that as a team we are doing well."

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