Abject Argentina labour to Paraguay draw
Two big moments from 12 yards out decided the game in the second half, with both going in Argentina's favour as Lionel Scaloni's side disappointed once again.
The first half was in large part a drab affair, with Argentina failing to muster any efforts on target aside a tame Messi free-kick as they struggled to break Paraguay down.
Eduardo Berizzo's side, on the other hand, looked sharp on the counter, and took the lead in the 36th minute as they broke quickly against a shaky Argentina defence.
Newcastle United midfielder Miguel Almirón, whose pacey, direct running set him above every other player on the pitch at the Mineirão, sprinted down the left, beating two Argentina defenders before cutting a ball back from the byline to the edge of the area.
Richard Sánchez then arrived at the edge of the box just in time to send a slightly scuffed effort across goal and into the bottom right corner and give Paraguay an unexpected lead going into the interval.
Scaloni brought on Sergio Agüero at half-time, and this change looked to galvanise the Argentina attack - in particular Messi - as they started the second half on the front foot.
Just over ten minutes later, a dubiously awarded penalty gave them the chance to level from the spot. Lautaro Martínez's volley flicked off the arm of Iván Piris from point-blank range and onto the crossbar, and after a lengthy VAR check, Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio gave the penalty.
Captain Messi stepped up and powered it home into the bottom right corner, but that wasn't the last time we'd see a spot kick in a game that was bereft of any real quality.
Just five minutes later, Manchester City defender Nicolás Otamendi, who struggled all evening with the pace of Almirón, gave away a penalty with a reckless and brainless lunge on Derlis González.
González picked himself up, dusted himself off, and struck the penalty low to the right side, but goalkeeper Franco Armani read it and tipped his effort around the post.
From that point on, the game fizzled out into a rather dull and disappointing draw, but this shouldn't take away from a resilient and impressive performance from an unfancied Paraguay side.
Argentina, who currently sit bottom of their group, must now beat Qatar on Sunday to give themselves a chance of going through to the knockout rounds and to avoid yet more embarrassment on the international stage.