Without Messi to start, Argentina wins in Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO (AP) – A prodigious left foot by Ángel Di María at the beginning of the match made the initial absence of Lionel Messi weigh less for the Argentina team, which won 1-0 on Friday in their visit to Uruguay and remained in the threshold of the World Cup.

Paulo Dybala took advantage of an oversight by midfielder Rodrigo Betancur and stole the ball at the start. The Juventus midfielder touched Di María, who from the apex of the area executed a warped shot that placed the ball at the angle of the goal defended by Fernando Muslera.

The goal seven minutes into the match played at the Estadio Campeón del Siglo ended up being the key for an Albiceleste who chose to leave Messi on the bench, an unprecedented fact in the management of coach Lionel Scaloni.

Always reluctant to miss a game but marginalized from recent games with Paris Saint-Germain due to a hamstring ailment in his magical left-foot, Messi was not relegated to the role of substitute at the start of an Argentina game since 2016, in a qualifying match against Bolivia.

Di María, his partner at PSG, scored the goal that paved the way for victory, although the Albiceleste team went through some harrowing episodes, even after Messi’s entry in the 76th minute.

At the end of the meeting, Agustín Álvarez missed the clearest of several that those led by Óscar Tabárez had in the complement.

Argentina consolidated in second place in the tie. La Albiceleste accumulates 28 points, seven below Brazil, which the day before secured their ticket to Qatar.

The two teams leading the competition will meet on Tuesday in Argentina. It remains to be seen what FIFA determines with respect to the duel that both were playing in September but which was suspended when Brazilian authorities entered the field and claimed that Argentine players had violated the sanitary protocols imposed in the midst of the pandemic.

By goal difference, Uruguay would be out of the World Cup if the tie concluded today. La Celeste has 16 points, the same as Colombia, the current depository of the right to play a playoff, and Chile, the resurrected one that currently has a direct ticket to Qatar.

The other team located in the automatic classification zone is currently Ecuador, third with 20 points.

At the height of La Paz, Uruguay will seek a result against Bolivia on Tuesday that will not lag further behind in the bidding.


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