Angel Di Maria’s goal on Friday put Argentina on the verge of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar as Lionel Messi was on the bench for the 1-0 win away to Uruguay.
Messi was only called upon by coach Lionel Scaloni to play the final quarter of an hour as he made his comeback from knee and hamstring issues that saw him miss Paris Saint-Germain’s last two matches.
Di Maria’s sublime early finish at the Campeon del Siglo stadium in Montevideo was the difference between the sides in a match dominated by Uruguay.
The result means Argentina – who are unbeaten in 26 matches – will qualify for the World Cup finals if they beat Brazil on Tuesday and any one of Colombia, Chile or Uruguay fail to win.
“This team has great courage and when you don’t play well, you still have to win,” said Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
“Winning today was a huge step. We deserve it because we work very hard.”
The defeat left Uruguay in a World Cup play-off spot, behind Colombia and Chile in the final two automatic qualification position on goal difference.
Nahitan Nandez should have given Uruguay a fifth minute lead after Argentina failed to deal with a long throw into the box.
A ricochet saw the…