Bids for the 2014 FIFA World Cup were on the line on Tuesday night, and Argentina's offense showed up against Paraguay to clinch a spot with a big victory.
The match was close throughout the first half, but Argentina pulled away after the break and ran out to a 5-2 victory, with match statistics courtesy of FIFA's official website.
Like many other matches during qualifying, the offense woke up and led the squad to a victory. It was the sixth time in 14 qualifying fixtures that Argentina scored at least three goals.
And yes, Lionel Messi was involved.
The 26-year-old opened the scoring on a penalty with less than 15 minutes gone. He then added another from the spot within 10 minutes of the start of the second half to give his squad a 4-1 lead.
Sergio Aguero gave the Argentines a 2-1 lead late in the first half, Angel di Maria scored minutes before Messi's second, while Maxi Rodriguez finished things off with a goal in the last minute.
Argentina improved to 8-5-1 in the standings, which puts them in first place. Their 30 goals are easily the most in the group, and they have allowed only 11 in return, which ranks second.
They dominated in every aspect of the game. The Argentines had nine shots on target compared to only five by Paraguay, and they won the possession battle as well. They controlled the ball for 60 percent of the match, which helped them dominate.
With Messi leading the way, Argentina were a lock to make it to the 2014 World Cup. This fixture made it official as the Argentines continued their impressive streak at the event, as noted by SportsCenter on Twitter:
Argentina became the second team from South America, along with host nation Brazil, to qualify for the World Cup.
They have made it to the quarterfinals in three of the last four World Cups, but they haven't made it past that round since 1990.
Messi will be expected to lead his squad deeper in Brazil. He will have some help as Gonzalo Higuain and Aguero have the ability to find the back of the net as well. Their attackers are tough to spot, and they should be able to make a run deep into the tournament.
Argentina still have two qualifiers left. They will take on Peru and Uruguay in October, but the pressure is now off as they have already secured a bid.
This match was dominated by Argentina, and the offense led the way. It's the type of prolific offense that will be tough to stop in next year's World Cup, so watch out for Messi and Argentina.
*All information is courtesy of the official website of FIFA
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