Argentina will endeavour to maintain their perfect start to World Cup 2022 Qualifying when they travel to the Estadio Defensores del Chaco to take on Paraguay in Thursday’s clash.
Eduardo Berizzo’s men marched to a 2-1 win over Venezuela in their most recent clash, while Argentina eased to a 3-0 win over Bolivia following the Brazil quarantine debacle.
Paraguay are hoping that third time is the charm when it comes to World Cup qualification, with this week’s hosts failing to qualify for the 2014 or 2018 editions after getting as far as the quarter-finals in South Africa 2010.
The phrase ‘mixed bag’ is a perfect representation of Paraguay’s results in CONMEBOL qualification so far, as Berizzo’s men went unbeaten in their first five games but only claimed one win before back-to-back 2-0 defeats to Brazil and Ecuador.
Paraguay’s only victory from their opening seven games was a 1-0 success over Venezuela, and they repeated that trick in their most recent game with a 2-1 win over the group’s basement team, with Kaku and David Martinez both finding the back of the net.
September also saw Berizzo’s side claim a respectable 1-1 draw with Colombia, and a tally of 11 points from their opening nine fixtures sees them sit sixth in the rankings – just two points below Ecuador in the fourth and final automatic qualification spot.
While a record of two defeats from their first nine games of World Cup Qualifying is to be admired, failure to convert draws into wins could prove to be Paraguay’s downfall, especially seeing as they must now pit their wits against a rampant Argentina outfit.
After the farcical events in the opening exchanges of their battle with Brazil – where local health authorities stormed the pitch over Argentina’s Premier League contingent failing to quarantine – the Copa America champions dusted themselves down for the visit of Bolivia on September 10.
A 3-0 win – during which Lionel Messi continued to defy his age with all three goals – saw Argentina march to a convincing success as they seek a straightforward passage to Qatar 2022, but dropping points against Chile, Colombia and Paraguay has dented their hopes of top spot.
Lionel Scaloni’s men remain unbeaten in Qualifying with 18 points taken from a possible 24, but they sit six points behind a perfect Brazil and are three points clear of a Uruguay side breathing down their necks, although they do have a game in hand.
Now able to boast an eight-game winning streak across all tournaments, nothing less than maximum points against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru will suffice for Argentina this month, but they have not experienced unbridled joy against their upcoming opponents.
Argentina did claim a narrow 1-0 win over Paraguay in their triumphant Copa America run, but that success represents their only one in five previous encounters with this week’s hosts, and they have failed to score more than one a game during that frustrating streak.
Paraguay World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Paraguay form (all competitions):
Argentina World Cup Qualifying – South America form:
Argentina form (all competitions):
We say: Paraguay 1-3 Argentina
Paraguay are capable of making this a tricky afternoon at the office for Argentina, whose well-renowned forwards have struggled to fire against their upcoming opponents in years gone by.
However, Scaloni’s men are the clear favourites in this battle and should see their superior quality shine through in a routine success to keep their winning streak going.