Argentina avoid upset and eliminate Qatar to reach quarter-finals
Copa America Group B, Arena do Gremio, Porto Alegre – Qatar 0 Argentina 2 (Martinez 4, Aguero 82)
Argentina are through to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Copa America in Brazil after an at times nervy two goal victory over Qatar.
Taking their inspiration from captain Lionel Messi, Argentina started the game at a furious pace. They took the lead after four minutes and missed a slew of chances before Sergio Aguero settled matters eight minutes from the end.
Qatar put in a spirited performance but lacked the conviction needed to really get at Argentina. Although they are now eliminated, there are still positives that manager Felix Sanchez can take from the performances from their debut in this competition, as they build towards hosting the 2022 World Cup.
Argentina now advance to face Venezuela in the quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. Their manager Lionel Scaloni has a lot to think about, as his struggling team continue to be heavily reliant on moments of individual class to progress.
Lautaro Martinez celebratesGetty Images
4’ GOAL! QATAR 0 ARGENTINA 1 (Martinez 4) An utter disaster at the back for Qatar, and Argentina are in front! Martinez intercepts the sloppiest of attempts to play out from the back. Latching on to a loose ball, he jumps in to intercept and scuffs a toe-poked pea-roller into the bottom corner to give Argentina a crucial early goal.
18’ CHANCE FOR QATAR! Al Haydos clips a pass in behind the Argentina defence for Almoez Ali. He tries to lob Armani who had come off his line - the goalkeeper just gets enough of his fingertips on it to deflect it away and Argentina clear.
22’ BIG CHANCE FOR ARGENTINA! Messi takes a direct run at the Qatar defence, straight down the middle. He lays it off to Aguero, who drags his shot wide from twelve yards with his left foot. That could have been the game, right there.
62’ WHAT A SAVE BY AL SHEEB! Peredes whips in a low corner. It's missed at the front post and finds Aguero, who connects brutally with his right from six yards. It looks a certain goal, but Al Sheeb pulls of a stunning one-handed save to deny him.
73’ WHAT A MISS BY MESSI! How big could that be? A simple cut-back finds Argentina's captain completely unmarked, ten yards out and in the centre of the goal. Amazingly, he launches his shot preposterously high over the bar.
82’ GOAL! QATAR 0 ARGENTINA 2 (Aguero 82) What a brilliant goal from Aguero. He's had a mixed bag of a match, but his class shone through here, picking the ball up in midfield and drifting past two defenders before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner. Magnificent stuff, and surely Argentina are now in the quarterfinals.
If Argentina are to make serious progress in this competition, then they will need to balance their wealth of forward talent appropriately. Aguero came back into the team today but struggled to find cohesion with his teammates; yet his brilliant goal sealed the victory for Argentina. Will individual moments of brilliance be enough for Argentina in this tournament?
Man of the Match – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Argentina’s captain was at the heart of everything his team did, energising his colleagues into a fast-paced start that at times threatened to overwhelm Qatar early on. He saw a lot of the ball in his more withdrawn role today, and kept things moving fluidly between defence and attack. Argentina will need him to be as prominent for tougher tests coming in the knockout rounds.
SUBS: Al-Ahraq 6, Ismaeil 6,
Argentina (4-3-1-2) – Armani 7; Saravia 6, Otamendi 6, Foyth 7, Tagliafico 6; De Paul 6, Paredes 7, Lo Celso 6; Messi 8; Aguero 7, Martinez 6
SUBS: Acuna 6, Dybala 6, Pezzella 6
- Argentina have won all six of their games against invitational teams at the Copa America.
- Qatar only managed one shot on target during the whole match.