PORTO ALEGRE: Lionel Messi avoided another disappointment with the national team as Argentina escaped elimination in the group stage of the Copa America.
Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero scored a goal in each half as Argentina defeated guest team Qatar 2-0 to secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the South American competition.
Argentina finished second in Group ‘B’ behind Colombia, who did Argentina a huge favour by beating Paraguay 1-0 in the other group match on Sunday.
Colombia finished with nine points, Argentina four, Paraguay two and Qatar one.The top two teams in each of the three groups advance, along with the two best third-place finishers.
“We needed a victory to give us confidence and tranquility,” Messi said. “What I liked the most was the team’s attitude, its desire to win the game.”
The Albiceleste struggled to impose their game against the Asian champions. Messi again was far from his best, unable to spark his team into a dominant performance.
Argentina will face Venezuela in the quarter-finals at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Martinez opened the scoring only four minutes into the match after a mistake by Qatari defender Bassam Al Rawi while trying to pass to a team-mate in front of his area. Martinez intercepted the pass and found the net to open the scoring at the Arena Gremio.
Qatar stayed in contention during most of the match but Aguero sealed Argentina’s win with a run past a couple of defenders in the 82nd.
Colombia stay perfect
Colombia beat Paraguay with a second-string team to stay perfect at the Copa with three wins and without conceding any goals.
The only goal of the match at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador was scored in the 31st minute by midfielder Gustavo Cuellar. Cuellar received the ball on the right, ran past a defender and shot between the legs of goalkeeper Gatito Fernandez.
“If you have a dream and you want to be champion, you need to have a group of players that are ready to play,” said Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz. “The true Copa America begins now.”
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019