Asuncion, 11 September
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 yesterday.
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.
Elsewhere yesterday, second place Colombia missed their chance to clinch qualification after crashing 2-0 to Uruguay in Montevideo.
Tax hearing: Barcelona star Lionel Messi and his father will appear in court Sep 27 to answer charges of tax evasion. The change of date came after the postponement of a hearing, scheduled for next week.
Messi and his father face charges of filing incomplete tax returns for the years 2006-2009 and have already made a payment of over five million euros to the Spanish tax authorities Aug 14, reports Xinhua.
Messi has long proclaimed his innocence, posting a message on his Facebook page in July insisting: "We have never committed any offence. We have always completed all of our obligations to the treasury following the advice of our financial advisors."
Meanwhile the El Pais newspaper in Spain reported Tuesday that when Messi and his father paid the five million euros in August, Messi’s father, Jorge, also handed a note in which he emphasised that Messi "has always dedicated himself to playing football and nothing else".
Messi and his father had been scheduled to appear in court Sep 17, but their lawyer asked for another date, given that he was busy that day.