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vs

Paraguay

Estadio Municipal Alcaldesa Ester Roa

Rebolledo, Chile

30th June 2015, 5:00 A.M IST

In a continent of champions, the Copa America tournament has so far been written by teams that simply refused to throw in the towel to their more illustrious opponents. Brazil, that bastion of footballing talent, has clearly not recovered from the pounding their image took at the hands of Germany during last summer’s World Cup. That loss of their famed ability to intimidate an opposition into losing a game before a single blade of grass has been trod upon, has had far reaching consequences.

Paraguay, already riding high after drawing tournament favorites Argentina in a pulsating 2-2 draw, continued to bring their A-game, maneuvering the Brazilians onto the mat, and pinning them down to prevent them from wreaking havoc before pipping them to the semi-finals spot, in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.

Argentina had anything but a cakewalk en route to the semi-finals, having to put down a clumsy yet battling Colombia, and the Blues will be wary of the Paraguayan threat.

Team tactics & Line-ups

Argentina

Tata Martino will be thrilled to have seen Carlos Tevez come good for the team, after two of his earlier preferred penalty takers conspired to miss their chances. With Tevez riding a wave of confidence, and with Messi and Aguero not far behind, Martino will be fancying his chances of living up to the billing of pre-tournament favorites.

There’s also the small matter of the FIFA rankings which almost predestine Argentina for a triumphant show at the semi-finals. Martino will do precious little to upset the apple-cart as wobbly as it may be, and retain Messi on the right flank while former Manchester United-man Carlos Tevez will serve as his opposite.

Kun Aguero, who was one of the sole bright lights in a disappointing Manchester City campaign, will serve up front, completing an imperious-looking front three. Defensive responsibilities will fall primarily to Mascherano, who will be licking his wounds after having seen his team concede two goals to Paraguay in the group encounter.

Mascherano will look to shadow Pastore more closely, to nullify the threat from Valdez who opened Paraguay’s account when it looked like they were out for the count. Martino who, having coached Paraguay, is very familiar with the red and white brigade and will need to revamp his tactics to deal with that Paraguayan match-altering late substitution, Barrios.

Predicted Line up (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Otamendi, Rojo; Pastore, Mascherano, Banega; Messi, Aguero, Tevez.

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Paraguay

Paraguay have it in them to topple this domineering Argentinian side. They just have to hope they can find the goals quickly enough to unsettle the Argentinians and disrupt the rhythm of the favorites. What Paraguay lack in pedigree, they more than make up in team spirit and a lack of spotlight. In captain Santa Cruz, they have a world-class striker capable of asking the tough questions of Otamandi and Garay. With the Argentinian defense having improved by leaps and bounds, Paraguay’s best hope lies in saving their legs for the final cranking up of pressure.

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Valdez and Ortize will fall further back, and play more retreated roles, in a bid to use a 5-man defense to starve Messi of space. Villar will need to take a page out of Ospina’s book and charge the Argentinian front line to put them off their stride, as they line up a shot on goal.

Predicted Line Up ( 4-5-1): Villar; M. Caceres, Da Silva, Balbuena, Samudio; Valdez, Ortiz, V Caceres, Ortigoza, Bobadilla; Santa Cruz;

Match Facts

  • Only Uruguay has more number of Copa America titles than Argentina
  • Argentina have won 3 and drawn 1 in the last 5 games against Paraguay
  • Paraguay have won only 15 of their 103 games against Argentina
  • Paraguay have only two Copa America Titles

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

As Lionel Messi’s day goes, so will Argentina’s. He has been in typical form all season long, but his inability and that of his team’s to find the net on a more frequent basis is troubling news for Argentine football fans. He dazzled in the game against Colombia, even his finishing touches left him grimacing. The Paraguayan key to a place in the finals, will involve starving the genius for space, and – referee permitting – using a rather physical approach to get him off his game.

Prediction

Argentina 1-0 Paraguay

Messi and company are simply too powerful and well-equipped to let Paraguay leave with their heads held high again. Expect a cagey encounter, with Kun Aguero getting on the score-sheet after Lionel Messi carves open the Paraguayan defense, to shake off his recent woes.