Lionel Messi’s Argentina were frustrated in a goalless draw away to Paraguay in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
Argentina had their chances against Paraguay in Asuncion, but the Copa America champions could not find the breakthrough on Thursday.
Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina, though, remain unbeaten in second position after nine matchdays on the road to Qatar 2022 and undefeated across 23 games across all competitions.
Messi was entering the contest on the back of his record-breaking exploits during the last international break after surpassing Brazil great Pele (77) as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation with his hat-trick against Bolivia.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar looked lively away to Paraguay, creating a great opportunity for Argentina to break the deadlock in the 11th minute.
Messi, who had received 437 passes in CONMEBOL qualifying – the most by any player in the campaign – weaved his way past defenders and slid a ball through to Lautaro Martinez, whose goal-bound effort was somehow cleared off the line by a scrambling Omar Alderete ahead of Angel Di Maria.
Argentina were largely in control in the opening half, though Paraguay had some moments in the attacking third.
Another chance went begging for Argentina within five minutes of the second half getting underway, Rodrigo de Paul’s ball across the six-yard box somehow evading his team-mates.
Paraguay almost took a surprise lead four minutes later after Miguel Almiron’s turn of pace created an opening, but Emiliano Martinez was up to the task to deny the Newcastle United star.
Di Maria picked out Joaquin Correa at the back post on the hour mark, however, some desperate defending blocked the Argentina forward’s goal-bound header.