Estadio Defensores del Chaco by yonolatengo / FlickrEstadio Defensores del Chaco by yonolatengo / Flickr

Paraguay 2-5 Argentina
10 September 2013
World Cup Qualifier
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
Scorers: Nunez, Santa Cruz (Paraguay), Messi (2 pens), Aguero, Di Maria, Rodriguez

A reshuffled Argentina side breezed past Paraguay to retain the UFWC title and qualify for the 2014 World Cup. La Albiceleste were without the suspended Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez. But Lionel Messi’s two penalties, plus goals from Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez, were more than enough to secure the Unofficial Football World Champions a place in Brazil next summer.

Argentina took a 12th minute lead in the Defensores del Chaco, with Messi converting a penalty after Aguero was brought down by Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto “Gatito” Fernandez. But, against the run of play, Paraguay scored a quick equaliser when Jose Nunez hit a deflected shot that somehow beat Sergio Romero in the Argentine goal.

Both sides created chances in a period of end-to-end play, but it was Argentina who converted next, after Messi chested the ball down to Aguero, who hit a half-volley into the back of the net. Argentina’s shuffled side began to settle, with Fernando Gago impressive in midfield, and Fabricio Coloccini working hard at the back. At half-time it was 2-1 to Alejandro Sabella’s side.

Within a few minutes of the second half, Argentina had built up an unassailable lead. The hard-working Angel Di Maria ran onto a Gago through-ball to score, before Messi won and scored a penalty. It was 4-1 to Argentina, and there was surely no way back for Paraguay. Nevertheless, Los Guaranies never gave up, and captain Roque Santa Cruz pulled a goal back in the 85th minute. But it was Argentina’s night, and substitute Maxi Rodriguez rounded things off with a last minute goal, finishing from a Di Maria pass.

Argentina can now look forward to the World Cup. Lionel Messi has scored ten goals in qualifiers, and 37 in total for his country. He is Argentina’s second-top goalscorer behind UFWC hall of famer Gabriel Batisuta.

This was Argentina’s 56th UFWC title match win. Only Scotland and England have more. Argentina will look to close the gap on those two nations by chalking up another UFWC win in their next match, against Peru on 11 October. We’ll bring you a full preview ahead of that match.

To avoid confusion, this match was played on the evening of 10 September in Paraguay, which was the morning of 11 September in the UK.