Argentina U23 men’s national football team beat Peru 2-0, boosting its chances of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. With goals by Thiago Almada and Luciano Gondou, the team coached by Javier Mascherano clinched its first win of the Conmebol Pre-Olympic Tournament.
It was a key game for Argentina, who drew 1-1 against Paraguay in its debut last Sunday. Reeling from it, the Albiceleste struggled to find its footing in the game. Its first big chance would come in the 32nd minute, when Vélez Sarsfield striker Santiago Castro tapped in the ball from a last effort by River Plate forward Pablo Solari to keep the ball in play. However, the goal was wrongly disallowed as Solari was incorrectly judged to be off-side.
Argentina had to wait until the second half, when former Boca Juniors youngster Valentín Barco dribbled into the box and was brought down in the 52nd minute. Qatar 2022-winner Thiago Almada scored the penalty to give the Albiceleste the lead.
Mascherano’s team extended the lead in the 86th minute. A long ball by Racing Club’s Baltasar Rodríguez found his Academia teammate Juan Ignacio Nardoni. He flicked it to Almada, who assisted Argentinos Juniors striker Luciano Gondou for the 2-0.
“We know that it will be a tough group stage until the last game,” said Mascherano. “We have to go step by step, now we rest and that will help us recoup and ease our minds.”
Argentina is in Group B with Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay and Peru. With this win, the Albiceleste leads the group, tied with Paraguay on four points, while Peru is third with three; Uruguay and Chile are tied on zero points, but have played one game less.
In Group A, Ecuador is leading a lineup that also includes Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia.
The first and second-placed in each group qualify for a final stage, where the top two earn a coveted spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Argentina is set to face Chile on Tuesday January 30, at 8 p.m.