Lionel Messi, Argentina Beat Qatar to Reach 2019 Copa America Knockout Stage

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIJune 23, 2019

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: Lautaro Martinez (C) celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Copa America Brazil 2019 group B match between Qatar and Argentina at Arena do Gremio on June 23, 2019 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Gustavo Ortiz/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Jam Media/Getty Images

Argentina beat Qatar 2-0 to qualify for the quarter-finals of the 2019 Copa America at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Sunday:

Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez got Argentina off to the perfect start by firing a low shot past goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb after just four minutes.

However, Lionel Scaloni's side could not add to their early goal, and Qatar came close to an equaliser just before half-time when Hassan Al-Haydos was inches away from converting a cross at the far post.

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Argentina dominated the second half and created plenty of chances. Sergio Aguero was twice denied by Al Sheeb, while Lionel Messi blazed a good opportunity over the bar.

The Albiceleste's pressure eventually told on 82 minutes, when Aguero beat two defenders and then rifled a low shot across goal and into the back of the net to secure the win.

Scaloni made three changes to his team for the clash against Qatar, with Juan Foyth, Renzo Saravia and Sergio Aguero all coming into his starting XI:

The Albiceleste started the game strongly, with Lionel Messi and Martinez both firing shots over the crossbar before the Inter striker opened the scoring.

The goal came from a mistake by the Qatar defence, as Martinez intercepted a wayward pass out from the back and clinically finished from inside the penalty area (U.S. only):

It was the perfect start from Argentina, but Qatar gradually grew into the game and had chances to level the scores before half-time.

Their best opening fell to Al-Haydos five minutes before the break. The striker was inches away from latching on to a cross in from the right on the stretch but could not quite convert at the far post.

Journalist Daniel Edwards summed up Argentina's performance:

Scaloni opted to make a change early in the second half, bringing off Giovani Lo Celso for Marcos Acuna, and Argentina started to dominate the game.

Messi set up Aguero for a great chance just before the hour mark, but the Manchester City striker saw his shot deflected over the crossbar. Aguero was then denied twice by goalkeeper Al Sheeb, as Qatar continued to frustrate the Albiceleste.

Even captain Messi was struggling to find the target for Argentina, as noted by football writer Sid Lowe:

Scaloni sent on Juventus forward Paulo Dybala for the final 15 minutes in search of the second goal, and it finally arrived with just eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Aguero picked up the ball deep inside the Qatar half but powered past two defenders and fired a low shot across goal that beat Al Sheeb:

His goal was enough to seal Argentina's first victory at the Copa America and sees Scaloni's side avoid an embarrassing early exit from the tournament.

    

What's Next?

Argentina finish second in Group B and go on to face Venezuela in the quarter-finals. Qatar finish in fourth place and are eliminated from the tournament.

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