Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni voiced concerns about the physical condition of his players while highlighting the importance of Lionel Messi after La Albiceleste booked their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Papu Gomez was the hero for Argentina, with his 10th-minute goal sealing a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Monday and a spot in the last eight of the showpiece CONMEBOL tournament.

There was no rest for superstar captain Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's record for most Argentina appearances with his 147th cap, despite Scaloni's men backing up from Friday's success against Uruguay.

Messi has not missed a minute of Argentina's three Group A games so far, amassing 74 touches against Paraguay while winning 75 per cent of a team-high 16 duels.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had the most shots (three) and shots on target (two) among his team-mates as Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 16 matches, dating back to 2019.

"The reality is that Messi has been playing every game and it is very difficult not to count on him, even though he is tired he continues to make the difference," said Scaloni, who introduced the likes of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero into the starting XI.

"Today we made several changes and despite that we were able to take all three points."

Without a major title since the 1993 Copa America, Argentina snapped a four-game winless drought against Paraguay in Brasilia.

Argentina ended the contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession.

"What worries me is the physical condition of the players because we came from playing three days ago and today the conditions were not the best, so we had to rotate players," Scaloni told reporters.

"The first half we played very well and in the second, due to the merit of Paraguay and their good physical condition, as a result of many days off, they had more control of the game. The team showed a good image in the first half, but there are always things to keep improving."

"The beauty of all this is the process," Lionel Scaloni said post-game.

Sixteen games unbeaten and through to the Copa America quarter-finals for the 14th consecutive CONMEBOL tournament.

Papu Gomez's delightful 10th-minute effort over onrushing Antony Silva extended Argentina's undefeated streak, while snapping a four-match winless drought against Paraguay on Monday.

Add seven clean sheets during an unbeaten run, dating back to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals, and it sounds wonderful for La Albiceleste in pursuit of a first major title since 1993.

This is not your usual Argentina, despite boasting a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – Lionel Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's appearance record with his 147th cap – hellbent on claiming an elusive international trophy.

Aside from Gomez's delicate finish, there was not much to write home about. After a promising opening half, Argentina faded. A growing theme under head coach Scaloni.

Argentina ended the Group A contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession. Fortunately for Scaloni's side, La Albirroja did not manage a shot on target.

At a time when Argentina was reeling following another early and unsuccessful World Cup campaign, ousted in the round of 16 at Russia 2018, Scaloni stepped into a hot seat so few were willing to take on.

The seven-time Argentina international provided stability when superstar captain Messi initially retired. Scaloni oversaw a run to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals – La Albiceleste settled for third.

Fast forward to this year and even amid a lengthy undefeated streak, there are growing questions over Scaloni, the style of football and Argentina's ability to put an end to 28 years of anguish.

While the football might not be so easy on the eye, it's the results that matter at the moment as Argentina build towards dethroning South American rivals Brazil on their own turf.

Argentina qualified for the Copa America quarter-finals after ending their drought against Paraguay with a 1-0 victory.

Not since the 2015 Copa had Argentina tasted a win over Paraguay – a run of four consecutive matches – but La Albiceleste snapped that winless streak thanks to Papu Gomez on Monday.

Gomez scored the winner in the 10th minute, scooping an effort over onrushing Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva, for his second goal from just his sixth international appearance.

As Lionel Messi equalled the record for most Argentina appearances, Lionel Scaloni's men extended their winning streak to 16 games in Brasilia.

Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero were named in the starting XI for the first time during this year's Copa, and the veteran Argentina pair were heavily involved early.

Aguero had a great chance to put Argentina ahead in the seventh minute after some woeful defending saw the ball fall to his feet inside the six-yard box, however, the Barcelona recruit's reactive effort went just over the crossbar.

Argentina did break the deadlock three minutes later via Gomez, who beat the offside trap and finished delicately over Silva after Di Maria cut a ball perfectly to the Sevilla star.

Paraguay ended the half with more possession – 55.2 per cent to 44.8 per cent – as Argentina dropped off after scoring the opening goal.

Argentina did find the back of the net for a second time on the stroke of half-time, wheeling away in celebration after Gomez's cross was inadvertently put into his own net by Paraguay defender Junior Alonso but it was ruled offside.

There was a promising spell of sustained pressure from Paraguay, who had not lost to Argentina in six years, to start the second half.

Paraguay continued to dictate proceedings without creating anything meaningful as Argentina booked their spot in the knockout phase in pursuit of a first major title since winning the 1993 Copa America.

 

What does it mean? Argentina roll on

Argentina are a tough team to beat at the moment. Not since the 2019 Copa America have La Albiceleste tasted defeat – a run of 16 consecutive matches without a loss. They have kept seven clean sheets during that run.

Messi milestone

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner celebrated another milestone on Monday, equalling Javier Mascherano for the most senior Argentina appearances – 147. Messi is already the country's all-time leading scorer (73).

Toothless Paraguay

Paraguay enjoyed more possession and a better passing accuracy, but it did not translate to anything meaningful up front. Eduardo Berizzo's side ended the contest without a shot on target.

What's next?

Argentina will conclude their Group A campaign against winless Bolivia in Cuiaba on Monday, while Paraguay meet Uruguay on the same day.

For a period in the build-up to the 1-1 draw between Uruguay and Chile, it was anyone's guess as to whether the game would go ahead or not, with the Chilean ranks appearing to be in chaos.

While the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) accepted a group of unnamed players had broken its COVID-secure bubble by bringing a barber into the team hotel, further allegations refused to go away.

Media reports claimed there was a second breach that revolved around several women being brought into accommodation, and head coach Martin Lasarte was apparently considering resigning over the matter.

It didn't stop there. The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) is said to have asked CONMEBOL to check security footage from the hotel to see if there was only the one breach, seemingly in the hope of being awarded the three points in the event of major sanctions.

As it was, three of the Chile players allegedly involved were named in the starting XI in Cuiaba, and perhaps it was predictable – in more than one sense – that one of them put La Roja in front.

Eduardo Vargas latched on to Ben Brereton's clever first-touch offload and burst into the right side of the penalty area. Having noticed he had no one else in support, the Atletico Mineiro forward lashed a right-footed striker beyond Fernando Muslera and into the top-left corner.

Vargas wheeled away and, just before sharing a strong embrace with Chile's unlikely new hero Brereton, the goalscorer made a 'talking' gesture with his hand, presumably showing his disapproval of the chatter surrounding he and his team-mates in the last few days.

In converting, Vargas moved above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta in the Copa America's all-time leading scorers rankings, going joint-fifth with Paolo Guerrero on 14 – the record, shared by Norberto Mendez and Zizinho with 17, is certainly within his reach.

Vargas' need to be withdrawn could play a role in that regard, however, as the 31-year-old went off just before the hour clutching the back of his thigh.

Nevertheless, his job was done to a certain extent, Vargas' goal a devastating show of clinical finishing that Uruguay just haven't seen in recent times – and not just in the Copa America.

La Celeste went into the game without scoring in their previous four games, a run that stretched back to November when Darwin Nunez netted the last in a 3-0 win over Colombia.

They were especially toothless in attack – despite the presence of talismanic duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – in their first match against Argentina, their 0.1 xG (expected goals) a tournament-low figure only previously achieved by Venezuela (against Brazil and Colombia) in this year's competition.

In fact, at the halfway point on Monday, Suarez and Cavani had only managed one shot on target between them in 135 minutes of Copa football – that solitary accurate attempt coming in the first half in Cuiaba as Claudio Bravo made a necessary, albeit expected, block to deny the Atletico Madrid man.

Of course, a key nuance to the struggles of Uruguay's front two would be that the service to them had been underwhelming – so much so that Suarez appeared determined to try and take matters into his own hands as a cross forced the Chile defence into action just before the break, while he also played a match-high three key passes over the course of the 90 minutes.

It arguably wasn't until the inexperienced Facundo Torres – making just his fourth appearance for Uruguay – came on in the 60th minute that La Celeste started to look genuinely lively in attack, though.

The 21-year-old quickly saw a rasping volley tipped wide by Bravo, and his lovely delivery from the resulting corner was flicked on by Matias Vecino, and the ball subsequently found its way in via a combination of Suarez and Vidal, who was ultimately credited with the own goal.

While further chances came and went at either end, a stalemate felt a fitting end to a match largely lacking in real quality.

But such situations are surely a by-product of the tournament's jeopardy-sapping format, with all but two of the 10 teams involved across the two groups set to reach the quarter-finals.

 

For those in Group A, it's a case of 'do better than Bolivia and you're through' – over the course of their four games, it would be a major shock if either Uruguay were to fail in that regard, while the point here sealed Chile's route through to the next round.

The main thing here for Uruguay was to finally get a goal on the board, even if it was given to Vidal, as it should provide something of a boost to their mentality, especially after significant criticism in the wake of that defeat to Argentina.

As such, it was all hugs and smiles between the two teams at full-time, with Chile and Uruguay well aware that dropping points here won't permanently burst their Copa bubble.

Chile claimed a place in the knockout stages of the Copa America despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Uruguay.

Eduardo Vargas opened the scoring in Cuiaba, but an Arturo Vidal own goal ensured it ended honours even, a result that means Chile can no longer finish bottom of Group A.

It also helped Uruguay get off the mark after defeat to Argentina in their opener, though Oscar Tabarez's side still have work to do reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

A lively start to proceedings saw Edinson Cavani force an outstanding save from Claudio Bravo with a close-range header, only for the Chilean goalkeeper to be denied the glory by a late offside flag.

The officials also waved away Chile claims for a penalty moments later for the same reason, though Martin Lasarte's side would not be denied for long.

Vargas looked to still have plenty to do after a slick one-two with Ben Brereton had taken him into the box, but he produced a brilliant finish from a tight angle to put his team ahead.

And, though Chile subsequently lost defender Guillermo Maripan to injury, Uruguay struggled to create anything of note before the half-time break.

The second period started in a similar fashion, but Chile's hopes were dealt a further blow when Vargas limped off with an apparent hamstring issue.

Aided by a flurry of substitutes, Uruguay began to build pressure, and that told with just over 20 minutes remaining, Vidal adjudged to have got the final touch under pressure as Luis Suarez looked to turn in a Matias Vecino flick-on from a corner.

Boosted by their equaliser, Tabarez's men dominated much of the closing stages, though they were denied a first win of the tournament as an obstinate Chile defence stood firm.

What does it mean? Chile a contender

They may have been pegged back here, but Chile's unbeaten start to this tournament has been an impressive one and no team will look forward to facing them in the last eight.

As for Uruguay, they showed the combination of graft and craft that will surely see them come alive should they secure passage into the business end of the Copa America.

Brereton stands out again

This is proving to be a breakout tournament for England-born Brereton, who followed up a goal against Bolivia last time out with an assist in this one. Chile are clearly benefiting from his presence as a focal point.

Cavani fails to fire

Uruguay would have turned one point into three had Cavani followed his partner in crime Suarez onto the scoresheet, but the Manchester United striker failed to even find the target with his all three of his shots across the 90 minutes.

What's next?

Chile finish off their fixtures in the group stage against Paraguay in Brasilia on Thursday, while Uruguay contest their penultimate game against Bolivia in Cuiaba on the same day.

A group of unnamed Chile players have been fined following a breach of the Copa America's strict coronavirus protocols, the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) announced on Sunday.

Chile's preparations for Monday's clash with Uruguay have been thrown into disarray after a number of players were sanctioned for inviting a barber into their team bubble in Brazil amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Spanish news outlet Marca reported there was a further breach, with at least five players allegedly inviting several women to the team hotel.

The FFC did not confirm or address the claims in the statement released amid doubts over the future of head coach Martin Lasarte.

"The Chilean Football Federation and the coaching staff of the Chilean men's national team recognise the breach of the health bubble of the delegation that participates in the Copa America, with the unauthorised entry of a hairdresser who, despite having a PCR negative, he should not have come into contact with the players. Those involved will be financially sanctioned," the FFC said in a statement.

"We regret what caused this situation and we inform that all the members of the delegation had a negative PCR test this Saturday, June 19."

The 2021 Copa America has been plagued by issues due to the COVID-19 health crisis, having been postponed and re-located from Colombia and Argentina, with all matches played behind closed doors.

Four of the 10 teams competing at the Copa America have had players or staff test positive to COVID-19, including one Chilean delegation member last week.

The FFC did not publicly identify which players were involved in the breach relating to the hairdresser, but Chile captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo insisted they would take responsibility.

"The situation definitely affects us," he said. "We didn't train in our 'normal' conditions but we did work at the hotel.

"Those that were involved take responsibility for it and will have to deal with the consequences."

Chile – who won the Copa in 2015 and 2016, and have four points from two games – are scheduled to play Uruguay in Cuiaba on Monday.

Peru brought to life their Copa America campaign with a clinical 2-1 win over a blunt Colombia in Goiania on Sunday.

Colombia had the bulk of possession but lacked quality in the final third, while Peru were opportunistic with Sergio Pena's 17th-minute opener and offered a slice of fortune with Yerry Mina's own goal in the 64th minute.

La Tricolor, who had collected four points from their opening two group games and not conceded a goal, had levelled via Miguel Borja's penalty eight minutes into the second half.

Peru were routed 4-0 by defending champions Brazil in their opener, but bounced back to move into third spot in the five-team Group B, with four nations advancing.

Colombia had the first shot of the match inside the opening 60 seconds, when Duvan Zapata curled an effort wide.

In the 12th minute, Colombia came close again as Juan Cuadrado's bending effort went fractionally wide of the targe.

Peru took the lead against the run of play in the 17th minute, when an unmarked Sergio Pena lashed home a rebound from inside the box after Yoshimar Yotun's awkward shot hit the post.

Colombia had an avenue back shortly after the interval when the onrushing Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese brought down Borja after veteran Christian Ramos' error. Borja dusted himself off to convert.

Borja had another sight on goal in the 58th minute, dragging his shot wide, while Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez headed over from a set-piece shortly after the hour as Colombia posed more of a threat.

Peru, however, re-took the lead in the 64th minute from a corner, when Mina inadvertently chested the ball on goal with goalkeeper David Ospina unable to prevent it from crossing the line.

Borja had a powerful header saved after substitute Luis Muriel's run as Colombia searched in vain for an equaliser.

An injury-time goal from substitute Ronald Hernandez earned Venezuela a 2-2 draw with Ecuador in a dramatic finish to the Copa America clash on Sunday.

Jose Peseiro's men looked to be heading for a second defeat in three games after Gonzalo Plata joined Ayrton Preciado on the scoresheet for Ecuador, those goals coming either side of Edson Castillo netting for Venezuela.

However, Hernandez headed in at the death in Rio de Janeiro to boost his side's hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the tournament.

That allowed Venezuela to add to the point they earned when holding Colombia to a 0-0 draw.

Ecuador made a strong start, hitting the woodwork after just four minutes when Leonardo Campana met a Pervis Estupinan cross with a low shot that clipped the post.

Although clearly prioritising defensively solidity in the early stages, Venezuela showed their threat on the break when Cristian Casseres blasted over the bar.

The same man then went close with a lob that Pedro Ortiz did just enough to keep out and which would have been awarded by VAR, had it dropped in, despite an on-pitch offside call.

That early flurry of chances was not in keeping with a poor first half, but Ecuador livened things up before the break as Preciado bundled home in the 39th minute after a free-kick.

And the excitement continued early in the second period as Castillo marked his first start for his country by levelling with a powerful header from Jose Martinez's right-wing cross in the 51st minute.

Venezuela almost moved into the lead with 20 minutes remaining as a Casseres corner somehow squeezed through to hit the base of the post before being desperately cleared.

But it was a counter from the subsequent corner that saw Ecuador go back in front in the 71st minute, Plata poking the ball home having first been denied at the end of a brilliant breakaway down the right.

Enner Valencia should have wrapped things up shortly after when he was played in behind, but his effort trickled wide of the far post with the goalkeeper stranded.

And that miss was punished as the game headed into time added on, Hernandez meeting a superb pass in behind from Castillo to head the ball home and claim a point.

What does it mean? Ecuador under threat

Given the state of play at kick-off, this fixture represented a huge opportunity for both teams to pull away from Peru in the race to avoid bottom spot in Group B.

And it seemed like Ecuador had taken their chance until Hernandez's equaliser, which makes their upcoming meeting with Peru all the more vital to their hopes of progressing.

Castillo impresses

Having only made his debut for his country at this tournament, Castillo not only marked his first start with a first goal but also provided the brilliant raking assist for Hernandez.

Valencia misfires

Ecuador would have been out of sight had Valencia found the target with either of his two shots, both of which came from presentable opportunities.

What's next?

Ecuador are back in action on Wednesday when they take on Peru in Goiania. Venezuela, meanwhile, must wait until Sunday to wrap up their group-stage campaign against the Peruvians in Brasilia.

Argentina know they will advance to the knockout stage of the Copa America if they end a four-game winless run in their rivalry with Paraguay on Monday.

La Albiceleste have not beaten Paraguay in six years, although three of the four games in the meantime have ended all square.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has been frustrated by the frequency with which his side have been held.

The team are unbeaten in 15 games going back to the 2019 Copa America, but they have won only eight of those matches alongside seven draws – including a home World Cup qualifier against Paraguay.

A sequence of three stalemates in a row was broken last time out, though, when Argentina defeated Uruguay 1-0 to move level with Chile at the top of Group A.

"I think that the previous games Argentina also deserved to win," Scaloni said following the Uruguay match.

"For small reasons, we were left with three draws that we did not deserve."

Paraguay could leapfrog Argentina and move into position for a potentially easier quarter-final draw with a repeat of their World Cup qualifying win, although Lionel Messi was absent on that occasion in 2016 and should be present for this game.

Eduardo Berizzo's men won their Copa America opener 3-1 against basement side Bolivia.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Martinez scored with 13.6 per cent of his shots for Inter in 2020-21, but he has so far yet to hit the target let alone the net from four chances worth a combined 0.8 expected goals at the Copa America. There were a couple of particularly disappointing misses against Chile, as Martinez was substituted when Argentina needed a goal, while he lasted just 52 minutes against Uruguay. He needs to take his chance.

 

Paraguay – Miguel Almiron

A Premier League regular, Almiron is the biggest name in the Paraguay squad. However, just as his end product has been criticised for Newcastle United, he has too often failed to make the difference at international level. The midfielder has as many red cards for his country as goals (two) and has never netted for the Albirroja in a competitive match. Almiron did assist Paraguay's opener in a draw with Argentina at the 2019 Copa America, however.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Argentina and Paraguay have met 25 times at the Copa America. Argentina have never lost to Paraguay in the competition (W19 D6).
– Paraguay are unbeaten in four against Argentina in all competitions (W1 D3). The last Argentina win against Monday's opponents was in the 2015 Copa America (6-1).
– The record between both teams in their latest six meetings in all competitions is tied, with one win each and four draws. The past two matches finished as 1-1 draws.
– Paraguay's Kaku leads the 2021 Copa America in terms of chances created. He has created 10 chances, tied with Neymar, but Paraguay have played only one game.
– Argentina are the team with the most fouls won at this Copa America (37).

Uruguay will need to end a barren run in front of goal if they are to topple unbeaten Chile in Copa America Group A on Monday. 

La Celeste fell 1-0 to Argentina on Friday in their tournament opener, marking the fourth consecutive game in which Uruguay were unable to find the back of the net dating back to November. 

Oscar Tabarez's side will need more from the seasoned attacking duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who each played a relatively quiet 90 minutes against their rivals. 

Uruguay did not manage to put a shot on goal despite having the majority of the possession, and will need a better effort against a confident Chile side. 

But Tabarez believes his side has time to figure things out in the remaining group-stage matches against Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia.  

"Our championship will be played in the next three games, where we aspire to qualify," said Uruguay's legendary head coach. "We must do what is necessary to get to the next phase."

While Uruguay struggle to find their footing, La Roja are joint leaders in the group with Argentina after their 1-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday on the heels of an opening 1-1 draw against La Albiceleste.

Chile could have had far more against Bolivia, as they put 11 shots on goal, but La Roja have to be pleased with their form under new head coach Martin Lasarte. 

The Montevideo-born Lasarte is unbeaten in five matches (2W, 3D) since being appointed in February. 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Edinson Cavani

After missing the previous two games through suspension, the 34-year-old believed he had won a penalty in the 27th minute against Argentina before the referee waved off his appeal. Cavani had the lone goal in a 1-0 win against Chile in their 2019 Copa America group-stage meeting. 

Chile – Ben Brereton

The England-born striker, whose mother is Chilean, made his international debut in the tournament-opening draw with Argentina and scored in the 10th minute of La Roja's 1-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday. 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay and Chile have not drawn in the last eight official matches they have played: five wins for Uruguay and three for Chile.

- Uruguay have won three of their last four official matches against the Chile (L1). Uruguay have not lost against Chile since November 2016 (1-3).

- Chile have scored in their last nine games in all competitions (W3 D4 L2). The last time La Roja failed to score was in a 0-0 draw against Colombia in a friendly game on October 2019.

- Uruguay will try to record their first shot on target in the competition after failing to register one in their opening fixture against Argentina.

- Chile's Mauricio Isla is, along with Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), the leader of the competition in terms of ball interceptions (six each).

Without a win and out of form, pressure is building on Ecuador but there is a togetherness within the squad at the Copa America.

Ecuador slumped to a 1-0 loss to Colombia in their Copa opener last week, condemning La Tri to a third consecutive defeat.

Gustavo Alfaro's side will have the chance to arrest their slump against Venezuela in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, but Copa history is against them.

Ecuador have not beaten a CONMEBOL opponent at the showpiece South American tournament since 2001, their 4-0 defeat of Venezuela followed by a 14-game winless run in such matches.

The team's only victories in the intervening period have come against CONCACAF pair Mexico and Haiti.

Despite the cause for concern, Sebas Mendez insists Ecuador remain united heading into their second Group B fixture.

"We have a great responsibility, which is to represent the country, people are following us," Mendez said as Ecuador – who have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals and exited in the 2019 group stage – look to kick-start their campaign in Brazil.

"The group is united. We know the goal we want so we are working in every way to be able to do it."  

Ecuador will come up against a Venezuela team buoyed by their gritty performance in Thursday's goalless draw with Colombia.

While Venezuela only have one point from their opening two matches, the minnows have shown great resilience in the absence of Tomas Rincon and Romulo Otero due to COVID-19.

Venezuela, despite their coronavirus issues, will be chasing a long-overdue win over Ecuador, having not tasted victory against them since the 2011 Copa America.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Venezuela – Wuilker Farinez

Farinez almost single-handedly kept Colombia at bay to earn a point for Venezuela last time out. There was no way past the 23-year-old Lens goalkeeper, who made eight saves to keep a clean sheet. It was double the number of saves he made in the three games he played with Lens during the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season. His eight saves are the joint-most by a goalkeeper that kept a clean sheet at the Copa America since 2007, following Paraguay's Gatito Fernandez in 2019.

Ecuador – Pervis Estupinan

A Europa League winner with Villarreal in 2020-21, the 23-year-old left-back has made a strong start to the Copa America. While Ecuador missed out on three points against Colombia, Estupinan was a handful, particularly in attack. He forced a strong save from David Ospina, finishing the clash with a team-high two key passes and one of Ecuador's two shots on target.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This meeting is one of the less common matches in the history of the tournament – it will be only the fourth match between Venezuela and Ecuador at the Copa America.
- The record currently favours Ecuador, who have won twice and lost just once, with the other game drawn. However, Venezuela won the last Copa America meeting between the teams, triumphing 1-0 in 2011.
- Venezuela will seek to score a goal in the Copa America after failing to achieve it in the last three matches in the competition.
- Ecuador are undefeated for six consecutive games against Venezuela in all competitions.
- Ecuador is the second-highest team in terms of possession in the current Copa America. Their average so far is 58.59 per cent, only behind Paraguay, who average 77.85 per cent.

Reinaldo Rueda sees plenty of room for improvement from his Colombia team, insisting they can never be ever satisfied.

Colombia, who were due to co-host the Copa America with Argentina before civil unrest in the country prevented it, started with a win over Ecuador before drawing 0-0 with Venezuela in their second match. 

Peru, who were dismantled 4-0 by hosts Brazil last time out, are next up in Group B for Rueda's team.

Colombia dominated against Venezuela, amassing 23 attempts – with eight of them on target – but could not find a way through.

Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez was in excellent form, making eight saves, as Colombia had to settle for a point.

"These games are very close and we were not good in finishing," Rueda said after the match.

"The team had a lot of discipline, a lot of intensity. We are never satisfied, we played a good game. We know that we have a complete team, but we know that we must improve.

"We continue looking for that great collective game. This game gives us great lessons. It continues to strengthen us. Against Peru we are going to face a tough team, with different characteristics."

Recent history is not on Colombia's side, however. They have not won any of their last four Copa America meetings with Peru, having drawn three of those encounters.

Indeed, their last win against Peru in this competition came in 2001, in a match which finished 3-0 to Colombia.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colombia – Juan Cuadrado

In the absence of James Rodriguez, other players have had to step up to fill the creative void for Colombia. Cuadrado gave his all against Venezuela, crafting seven goalscoring opportunities, but his efforts ultimately proved fruitless. However, the Juventus wide man will no doubt be crucial to his team's attacking play once more on Sunday.

Peru – Christian Cueva

Peru still managed to offer some attacking threat in their heavy defeat to Brazil, and Cueva's creativity was on show as he created two chances, drew three fouls and finished with an 89.7 per cent pass completion rate. 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Colombia and Peru have drawn in six of the last eight times they have met in the Copa America. The last two games ended goalless.
- Peru will seek to break a streak of two consecutive defeats in the Copa America. Both defeats were against Brazil (in the final of 2019 and first game of 2021). The last time the Peruvians lost three consecutive games in the competition was in 1956.
- Colombia defender Yerry Mina is the player with the most aerial duels won so far in the tournament (13).
- Peru (118) and Colombia (117) are the second and third teams with the most duels for the ball. Ecuador top the rankings with 130.
- Of these duels, Colombia won 52 per cent, while Peru managed to win 47 per cent.

Lionel Scaloni said Argentina produced the "extra rage" they needed to end their run of draws with a 1-0 Copa America victory over rivals Uruguay on Friday.

Lionel Messi crossed for Guido Rodriguez to head in the 13th-minute winner for Argentina's first victory of this year's Copa America after their opening 1-1 draw with Chile.

Scaloni has come under pressure following Argentina's run of three draws, blowing a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Colombia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying along with a 1-1 home draw with Chile on the roar to Qatar 2022 earlier this month.

"I honestly believe that in the previous matches we also deserved to win, but due to small mistakes we were only able to draw," head coach Scaloni said during his post-match news conference.

"Today the team gave the extra rage so that they don't convert us and once we were winning we were able to withstand the opponent's attacks. Today we were good both in attack and defence."

Argentina – amid a 15-game unbeaten run – were strong defensively, having denied Uruguay any shots on target throughout the match, the second time it has occurred in a competitive game under Scaloni.

In attack, Messi was named man of the match for the second consecutive game, providing the assist for the decisive moment in the game.

"Messi and all his team-mates made a great effort," Scaloni said. "He speaks very well of the commitment of all the players and fills us with pride.

"They do it for the shirt of their country. This is going to be hard, but the way is this."

Real Betis midfielder Rodriguez was one of four changes to the Argentina starting XI from the side which drew with Chile and Scaloni was delighted with his display.

Argentina have scored 10 of their last 11 goals in the first half across World Cup qualifying and the Copa America. In this period, only Joaquin Correa, against Bolivia, has scored a goal in the second half.

"Guido was always with us and we have valued his commitment for a long time, with his way of training and his way of supporting his team-mates," Scaloni said. "Today he had his chance and he did not waste it."

Argentina are next in action against Paraguay in Brasilia on Sunday.

Friday did not go according to plan for Uruguay. La Celeste were beaten 1-0 by Lionel Messi's Argentina in their Copa America opener.

It was another match and another blank for Uruguay, who have not scored this calendar year amid a four-game winless streak.

Not since 2013 have Uruguay got the better of their old rivals, while Argentina are undefeated in five games against Uruguay at the Copa America.

Despite Uruguay's current problems and attacking woes, even with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in the line-up, Oscar Tabarez's legend continues to grow.

Tabarez is battling an ailment but is still serving the football-mad nation, dating back to 2006.

His story is not only legendary, but inspirational.

Tabarez has Guillain-Barre syndrome – a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system.

But that has not stopped the 74-year-old in his second stint in charge of Uruguay, having also coached La Celeste from 1988 to 1990.

Responsible for resurrecting Uruguay, Tabarez still celebrates goals even as an elderly man with a stick, struggling to walk.

"I am not living with any pain. This neuropathy sometimes causes me problems, especially to walk. But since this is a chronic illness, sometimes I am a little better," Tabarez previously said, having been expected to resign in 2016 following the diagnosis.

Tabarez, remarkably, is overseeing his seventh Copa America campaign. He guided Uruguay to their 15th CONMEBOL crown in 2011 and first since 1995.

Only three other coaches have managed more Copa America matches than Tabarez – a primary school teacher before embarking on a coaching career that has taken him to the likes of Boca Juniors and Milan.

On his watch, Uruguay have reached the quarter-finals on three occasions, finishing fourth in 2007. Tabarez's team also rode a wave en route to the 2010 World Cup semi-finals. A last-16 berth and quarter-final appearance followed in 2014 and 2018.

"What the Teacher achieved in this time is very big because he started totally from scratch," Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera said previously. "He has created everything we achieved and what is yet to come. If Uruguay is this respected worldwide it is because he made it."

Fast forward to 2021. His 31st meeting with La Albiceleste was a fruitless one for Tabarez and Uruguay, who have not conquered Argentina in Copa competition since 1989.

Uruguay have their work cut out this year but Tabarez has built a team that can never be underestimated.

More importantly, while silverware is at the forefront of El Maestro's mind, this is a story about human endeavour and a hero with an unwavering belief and refusal to quit.

Ben Brereton does not speak the language and he barely knows his team-mates but the Blackburn Rovers forward won praise after scoring the winner in Chile's 1-0 Copa America victory over Bolivia.

Stoke-On-Trent-born Blackburn star Brereton linked up with Eduardo Vargas for Chile's 10th-minute winner in only his second appearance and first start for his adopted country on Friday.

The 22-year-old, who has a Chilean mother and grandfather, was a surprise call-up for the Copa America but has not disappointed, earning praise from head coach Martin Lasarte.

"It must be very difficult for him to play for a national team where they don't speak the language he speaks," Lasarte said during his post-match news conference following the Bolivia win.

"He is making a great effort and the group is helping him adapt. He had his chance, his goal, he shouted out and he scored."

Brereton finished the match with 18 successful passes out of 20 attempted (90 per cent), three shots on target, one chance created and having scored the winner.

Vargas, who laid off the pass for Brereton's goal, added: "We get along well with Ben. We don't know his language, he doesn't know how to speak Spanish either, but we understand each other very well on the pitch."

Brereton posted on Instagram in Spanish after the game, writing: "Great job everyone. I'm very happy for today's game. We will continue working hard!"

The adoration has been widespread, with former Chile international Mauricio Pinilla tweeting: "My next son will be called Ben!"

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