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Messi puts Argentina in WC

Messi puts Argentina in WC
Highlights

Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina booked their place at the World Cup with a 5-2 thrashing of Paraguay. Argentina captain Messi struck a penalty...

Asuncion (IANS): Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina booked their place at the World Cup with a 5-2 thrashing of Paraguay. Argentina captain Messi struck a penalty in each half as the South American giants made sure of their place at next year`s finals in Brazil in emphatic fashion on Tuesday.The Argentines -- missing four of their first-choice XI through suspension -- had only needed a point in the Paraguayan capital to be certain of qualification.

But Alejandro Sabella`s side demonstrated why they are likely to be regarded as one of the teams to beat in Brazil by tearing into the home team from the whistle. Messi fired them ahead from the penalty spot on 12 minutes only for Paraguay to equalise through Jose Nunez six minutes later.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero restored Argentina`s lead on 32 minutes, shrugging off two markers before rifling past Roberto Fernandez to make it 2-1. Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria extended Argentina`s lead soon after half-time, sweeping forward on a lightning-fast counter attack and coolly steering a low shot beyond Fernandez on 50 minutes. Argentina earned a second penalty moments later when Salustiano Candia was harshly adjudged to have fouled Messi in the area.
Messi duly dusted himself down and blasted in his second goal of the night to make it 4-1. Paraguay veteran Roque Santa Cruz struck a late consolation goal for the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists but Maxi Rodriguez hit back for Argentina in the dying minutes to make it 5-2. A superb curling cross from Maxi Pereira was met by Cavani, who guided his header expertly past Colombian keeper David Ospina to make it 1-0.
Moments later Gaston Ramirez carved out some space inside the area and cut back to find Stuani who coolly tucked the ball away to make it 2-0. It was a third consecutive victory for Uruguay which left them level on 22 points with fourth placed Ecuador, who drew 1-1 with Bolivia earlier yesterday. Meanwhile, Italy and the Netherlands became the first European nations to clinch qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals with victories on a busy night of action.
Another of the continent's most famous names, Germany, are also now on the brink of qualification, as are Switzerland, while Russia and England ensured that their destinies remain in their own hands. The only World Cup finals Italy have missed remain the 1958 finals in Sweden, and Cesare Prandelli's side knew that a win against the Czech Republic in Turin would confirm their participation in a 14th consecutive finals.
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