Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina booked their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a 5-2 thrashing of Paraguay on Tuesday.
Argentina captain Messi struck a penalty in each half as the South American giants made sure of their place in Brazil in emphatic fashion.
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 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists, but Maxi Rodriguez hit back for Argentina in the dying minutes to make it 5-2.