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World Cup qualifier: Paraguay held Argentina in goalless draw

Paraguay kept Lionel Messi calm in a goalless draw against Argentina in a South American World Cup qualifier on Thursday. This point sustained Argentina’s unbeaten run in qualifying and consolidated their second place in the singles qualifying table behind runaway leaders Brazil, who were later playing Venezuela.

Uruguay finished third after a scoreless draw in a football match with Colombia in Montevideo. A lively start at Asuncion saw opportunities at both ends but Argentina’s Joaquín Correa should have done better to score, only for a heavy touch to allow goalkeeper Antony Silva to reduce the threat.

Argentine stopper Emiliano Martínez then saved a full stretch to tip Santiago Arzamendia’s piledriver from around the post. Correa twice went past Paraguay’s defense, both times with a Messi pass, but was flagged the first time and the second time Angel Di Maria made an unnecessary attempt to square the ball, allowing a defender to clear.

Argentina were on top as Messi swung a free-kick from the left side of the far post. But despite having around 70 percent possession and enjoying most of the first-half chances, Argentina rarely looked like breaking their organized hosts.

A similarly quick start in the second half as Korea somehow failed to convert Rodrigo de Paul’s cross into the back post. At the other end, Martinez blocked Miguel Almiron’s shot from a tight angle after a lazy run from the Newcastle United forward.

Argentina were ready to take the lead at the hour mark when Di Maria’s deep cross found Correa but the unbelievable Mathias Vilasanti came back with his knee to deflect his free header. Martínez then had to be on the alert to pass the post flick near Antonio Sanabria, while Silva beat a fierce de Paul drive.

Played behind the defense by Almiron, Sanabria pulled a shot into the goal, while Silva made a flying save to negate substitute Nicolas González’s curling shot which was heading towards the top corner. Carlos González should have won two minutes from time for Paraguay, but dropped his shot from 12 yards.

In Montevideo, Uruguay dominated the first half against Colombia, but Luis Suárez had a goal for a narrow offside and missed a sitter, opening his leg too far in an attempt to swing the ball into the far corner. Uruguay enjoyed the lion’s share in the second period, but neither side found a way to break the deadlock. Watch football highlights of Paraguay and Argentina goalless draw in World Cup qualifier.

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