Bigger challenge next for troubled Argentina

Argentina's Carlos Tevez is stretchered off during the World Cup qualifier against Paraguay. He is the third striker to suffer injuries after Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.
Argentina's Carlos Tevez is stretchered off during the World Cup qualifier against Paraguay. He is the third striker to suffer injuries after Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.PHOTO: REUTERS

ASUNCION (Paraguay) • With arch- rivals Brazil up next, Argentina are winless and goal-less after their first two World Cup qualifiers.

Gerardo Martino's men could only draw 0-0 against Paraguay on Tuesday - the team they thrashed 6-1 in the Copa America semi-finals in June.

Without injured strikers Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez was tasked with leading the Argentina attack in Asuncion and headed a good Angel di Maria cross just over the bar.

He then suffered a broken nose early in the second half, when he was hit by defender Victor Caceres' elbow and spent four minutes being bandaged up.

The 31-year-old was eventually substituted in the 75th minute. He has yet to score for Argentina in four years.

Martino praised the fortitude of his team but admitted that the results are not good enough, particularly after Thursday's 0-2 loss to Ecuador.

"We're sorry not to have got the three points which we had come for. I'm not happy with one point because we needed to win the match," he said.

"I am happy with the effort that the players put in. They were better in the first half than in the second.

"It is not easy to get fluidity in play within two or three days, having changed the tactical plan.

"The bad thing from these fixtures is the amount of points we took. What is worrying is the defeat by Ecuador."

Messi is unlikely to return for Argentina's date with Brazil on Nov 13. But Aguero is aiming to play a part in that clash.

"I hope I can be there against Brazil, but we must let the injury recover a bit so there is no relapse," he said of the hamstring injury he suffered against Ecuador.

"This is an injury you have to recover bit by bit, but of course I want to be back quickly."

Uruguay had no problems without their suspended strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and top the group on goal difference after beating Colombia 3-0 in Montevideo.

Chile and Ecuador also made it two wins from two games.

Copa America champions Chile beat 10-man Peru 4-3 in Lima with two goals each from strikers Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas.

In Quito, Ecuador notched a 2-0 victory over Bolivia.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Bigger challenge next for troubled Argentina'. Print Edition | Subscribe