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Miguel Almiron impresses against Lionel Messi in latest clash

1 week ago
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Miguel Almiron and Paraguay got a great result in November (2020) when drawing 1-1 away against Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates.

In the early hours of Friday (UK time) they played the reverse fixture in their South America qualifying group for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

Paraguay hosting an Argentina team led by Lionel Messi, whilst Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron was restored to his country’s side after missing last month’s World Cup qualifiers due to covid quarantining issues.

Argentina were second in the ten country group, Paraguay sixth, so it was a moral victory for Miguel Almiron and his side as they played out a 0-0 draw, the first time Argentina had failed to score in a game in 25 months.

Lionel Messi was a little subdued as Almiron played well for Paraguay, playing far higher up the pitch than he tends to do under Steve Bruce, Paraguay continually pressing high. Despite the scoreline it was actually a very open attacking game and despite Argentina having 70% of possession, Paraguay had 10 shots to the opposition’s 14.

The result means that Argentina have gone 23 games without defeat under coach Lionel Scaloni and look set to comfortably qualify for Qatar 2022.

Miguel Almiron arguably came closest to winning it for Paraguay, as he had one of their three efforts on target, a great run and forcing the Argentine keeper into a close range save (you can see that run and chance at 5.14 in the highlights below – class atmosphere).

That result leave the South America qualifying group for Qatar 2022 looking like this on Friday afternoon:

South America World Cup Qualifying Group 8 October 2021

The top four qualify automatically for Qatar whilst the fifth goes into a play-off. As you can see, Paraguay currently in sixth and out of the qualifying spots.

However, in reality anything from the Argentina match was always going to be a bonus.

Paraguay now have a great chance to set themselves up for the final run of half a dozen qualifiers that will follow after October. As they now play eight placed Chile on Sunday and then ninth placed Bolivia on Thursday.

Both are very winnable games and if Miguel Almiron can win this next pair of qualifiers, they should find themselves in fifth, or even possibly the automatic qualifying spot of fourth, as Uruguay who are currently fourth have Brazil and Argentina up next.

As for Newcastle United’s other five players on international duty, they all play next on Saturday (9 October): Ryan Fraser (Scotland), Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland), Emil Krafth (Sweden), Jeff Hendrick (Republic of Ireland) and Fabian Schar (Switzerland).

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