By Sebastian Meresman
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jun 19 (EFE).- Lionel Messi has gone 11 months and 22 days since tasting victory with the Argentine national team in a real match, and the soccer superstar hopes to end the drought on Wednesday night against Paraguay.
The 31-year-old Messi hopes to end the streak and leave Minerao Stadium in Belo Horizonte with the smile of a winner.
Argentina’s last victory in official competition came on June 26, 2018, when it defeated Nigeria 2-1 in a World Cup Group D match in Russia, thanks to a goal by defender Marcos Rojo in the 86th minute that allowed the squad to advance to the round of 16.
Messi scored the first goal in that match, putting Argentina on the scoreboard in the 14th minute, but he was unable to score again.
In the 358 days since that match, Argentina has not won again in an official competition.
Eventual champion France edged Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup.
In the run-up to the Copa America, coach Lionel Scaloni’s Argentine squad played nine friendlies, compiling a record of 6-2-1.
Messi played in just two of the friendlies, enduring a 3-1 loss to Venezuela and enjoying a 5-1 victory against Nicaragua in the squad’s last tune-up before leaving for the Copa America.
With Messi in the lineup last Saturday, Argentina lost a gut-wrenching Group B match 2-0 to Colombia at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
“We still have lots of chances. We’re looking up and moving forward now. We have to go step by step now. The match against Paraguay will be key,” the Barcelona forward said.
Argentina and Paraguay will square off at 9:30 pm at Mineirao Stadium, with Messi and his teammates needing a win to stay in the hunt for a spot in the quarterfinals.
A win will allow Argentina and Messi to end the 358-day drought since their last victory in official competition.
Argentina is also trying to end another streak – the 25 years, 11 months and 15 days it has gone without winning a title.
The team has not won a title since the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador.
Since then, Argentina has competed in 17 tournaments, ending up a finalist seven times but never a champion.
“I believe that this group is ready for this challenge, and it’s going to try to get it done,” Messi said.