Argentina wraps up Group C in Copa America

Jul 6, 2007 - 5:24 AM BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela (Ticker) - Argentina wrapped up Group C courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Paraguay in Copa America on Thursday night.

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano scored the crucial goal 12 minutes from the end as Alfio Basile's men recorded their third consecutive victory in South America's showpiece tournament.

Argentina (3-0-0) will now return here Sunday to take on Peru (1-1-1), the Group A runner-up, while Paraguay (2-1-0) faces Group B winner Mexico (2-0-1) in Maturin on the same day.

With both teams already assured of a place in the last eight thanks to victories over Colombia and the United States, both Basile and Gerardo Martin took the opportunity to field much-changed lineups.

Rodrigo Palacio, Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago and West Ham United striker Carlos Tevez came in for Argentina, while keeper Aldo Bobadilla and midfielder Aureliano Torres started for Paraguay.

Mascherano won the game in the 78th minute when he picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area and beat Bobadilla with a precise shot.

Mascherano admitted he was surprised to get on the scoresheet.

"Isn't usual for me to score, so I'm very happy for the goal and the win," he said. "We played very well. I scored but the most important thing was that Argentina won and we played good football."

Argentina began the better and Zaragoza star Pablo Aimar could have opened the scoring but just failed to get on the end of Luis Gonzalez's ball.

The Albicelestes began to dominate possession and limited Paraguay to sporadic counter-attacks, though keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri had to pull off an impressive save to deny striker Salvador Cabanas just after the half-hour mark.

"We were clearly the better side," Basile said. "We had a few absentees and the players responded. The 'Pato' (Abbondanzieri) had a great night. He saved two of the game's best chances."

Tevez hit the post 10 minutes after the break and Palacio saw an effort come back off the bar as Argentina came close to breaking the deadlock at the start of the second half.

Dante Lopez had Paraguay's best chance of the second period but Getafe stopper Abbondanzieri again was equal to the challenge.

Basile is also expecting a tough encounter against Peru.

"Peru played very well against Uruguay," Brasile said. "I like the Peruvian team's style and it will be a close game. We don't have time to fix our weaknesses but I hope the team can improve."






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