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Argentina and Paraguay to square off in Copa America battle of the reeling

COPA AMERICA 2019 | 18 de junio de 2019

Argentine national soccer team captain Lionel Messi arrives at his hotel after practice in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on June 17, 2019. EPA-EFE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

By Sebastian Meresman

Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Argentina and Paraguay, which got off to rough starts at the 2019 Copa America, will square off later this week at Mireirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

The squads will meet on Wednesday in a second-round Group B match, a clash that both teams enter following disappointing opening performances.

On Saturday, Colombia shocked Argentina, whose captain is superstar Lionel Messi, 2-0, while Paraguay blew a 2-0 lead against Qatar and ended up with a 2-2 tie.

Colombia's fine performance and Qatar's surprise tie have turned up the pressure on Argentina and Paraguay to avoid missing the quarters.

"There are two matches left in the group phase and we'll advance to the next phase if we win them," Argentine national team coach Lionel Scaloni said after Saturday's loss to Colombia.

Messi, for his part, said that the team had to turn the page and "think about what's ahead."

"We still have lots of chances. We're looking up and moving forward now. We have to go step by step now. The match against Paraguay will be key," the Barcelona forward said.

Scaloni is expected to stick with the 11 starters he put on the field against Colombia.

Two players, however, could crack the starting lineup - Milton Casco, in place of Renzo Saravia, and midfielder Rodrigo De Paul, on the left side for Angel Di Maria.

On Monday, Roberto Pereyra and Marcos Acuña were recovering from muscle injuries and may not be in top form for the match against Paraguay.

Paraguay, meanwhile, is getting some players back.

Midfielder Rodrigo Rojas, who came out of the match against Qatar with an arm injury, practiced normally on Monday and will take the field against Argentina.

Paraguay captain Gustavo Gomez, who was suspended for the team's Copa America debut, will also be in action.

Paraguayan national team coach Eduardo Berizzo said the tie against Qatar was "disappointing," adding that he was "responsible" for the squad not playing well.

"When we had the ball, we didn't have a midfield capable of handling the ball with focus. That cost us, we blew the match in a matter of a few minutes," the coach said.

Midfielder Derlis Gonzalez agreed with his coach, telling the press that the team left Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium with a "sour taste" in its mouth.

"We didn't take advantage of the lead, these matches are key, they can knock you out of the tournament, but now we're thinking about what's coming," Gonzalez said.

Berizzo may tweak his lineup, especially in the midfield, and Gonzalez or Richard Sanchez could start, sending Celso Ortiz to the bench.

The teams will wrap up their Group B schedule on Sunday, with Argentina taking on Qatar and Paraguay playing Colombia.

- Projected lineups:

Argentina: Franco Armani; Renzo Saravia, German Pezzella, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Giovani Lo Celso, Guido Rodriguez, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul; Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero

Paraguay: Roberto Fernandez; Bruno Valdez, Gustavo Gomez, Junior Alonso, Santiago Arzamendia; Richard Sanchez, Rodrigo Rojas, Miguel Almiron, Hernan Perez; Oscar Cardozo and Celicio Dominguez

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