Argentina reach quarters of Copa America football


Caracas (Venezuela) : Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 to reach the quarterfinals of the Copa America, having won all three of their first-round games.

Support TwoCircles

Thursday's result left Argentina – billed as hot favourites by experts even before the start of the tournament – at the top of Group C with nine points while Paraguay are second with six.

In the quarters Sunday, Argentina will play Peru, and Paraguay will have a tougher task against Mexico.

"We could have won more calmly, but [Paraguay] is difficult," Argentine coach Alfio Basile said after the game.

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, who had come in from the bench minutes earlier, scored the only goal of the match in Barquisimeto from outside the box in the 78th minute.

"The team had played a good game, only the goal was missing, and luckily we got it," Mascherano said.

Since both teams were through to the quarterfinals before this game, the two sides fielded reserve teams.

In Argentina's case, however, this left the likes of Carlos Tevez, Javier Zanetti and Fernando Gago on the pitch.

A victory or a draw would have left Paraguay top of the group.

Probably because of that the team, coached by the Argentine Gerardo Martino, based play on its solid defence while Argentina sought the rival goal with more interest.

As minutes passed, Basile decided to go all out for the match, and Mascherano and star Lionel Messi entered the pitch in the 67th minute. After the Argentine goal, Martino had a similar reaction and fielded striker Roque Santa Cruz, but it was to no avail.

The prize for the winner of the game was to avoid Mexico, the second best team in the first round of the Copa after Argentina. They had two victories, including a 2-0 defeat of Brazil. However, Martino appeared calm ahead of the quarterfinals clash.

"It is the defeat [against Argentina] that hurts, not the future rival," the coach said.

Earlier Thursday, also in Barquisimeto, Colombia beat the US 1-0 in a game between sides that have already been eliminated. The result left the US at the bottom of Group C with no points while Colombia finished third with three points.

Jaime Castrillon scored the lone goal with a header in the 15th minute. Hugo Rodallega could have made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 36th minute, but the US goalkeeper blocked his shot.

The US won last month's CONCACAF Gold Cup on home turf but entered the more prestigious Copa America with a young side lacking some key stars and lost all three of its matches in Venezuela, a poor record they shared only with Ecuador.

Colombia, however, fielded their best team in the Copa, and coach Jorge Luis Pinto had said that they travelled to Venezuela "with the need to win and be a protagonist," making their first-round elimination a disappointment.