Argentina see off Qatar to reach quarter finals

Jushna Shahin

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Argentina avoided an early exit from Copa America as they beat Asian Champions Qatar 2-0 at Porto Alegre to advance to the knockout stage on Sunday night.

Going to the crunch match, there was plenty of pressure on Leo Messi and co. after a thorough defeat in the opening match to Colombia followed by a disappointing draw against Paraguay raised serious doubts about their progression to the knockout stages.

Having realised that only a victory would suffice, the Albiceleste got off to a perfect start when Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring inside just five minutes to calm the nerves.

An awful clearance by Al-Rawi was easily intercepted by the Inter Milan forward as he made no mistake to finish it off to the right corner of the post. The goal lifted the confidence of the 2016 runners-up as they slowly started to dominate the possession.

The entertaining first half saw both the sides creating chances but without precision in attack. Sergio Aguero, was played through by Messi on 22 minutes but the Manchester City’s all-time top scorer skewed his effort wide of the post.

Argentina keeper Franco Armani denied Hassan Al Haydos’s lob to keep his side in front as the open match continued to entertain. Despite playing fluid football, 2022 World Cup hosts rarely threatened the two times world champions.

Second half witnessed more attacking moments from the Albicelste as Messi pulled the strings to create certain chances.

Aguero sent a half chance over the bar on the hour-mark before he was denied a volleyed effort excellently stopped by the Qatar goalkeeper from a corner set piece.

Messi skied off a great chance in the 72 minute as Qatar gathered momentum to put pressure on the South Americans.

Aguero, however, made amendments for his earlier misses with a mazy run was ended with a fine finish eight minutes from time to send Argentina through.

Argentina dominated the statistics as they registered 15 shots out of which nine were on target. And Qatar managed a very tough defense with Al Sheeb proving a tremendous task on the net, streching always when a ball comes to make the claim.

Qatar is returning home with just one point in three matches. Photo: Twitter

This was the second match in which Qatar faced the Albiceleste after an international friendly in 2005 which they lost 3-0. This is the end of the road for the Arab nation that debuted in Copa America as they return home with just one point that hard earned against Paraguay in the first match.

The result lifted Argentina from bottom to the second in group A behind Colombia who made it easy for them by defeating closest rivals Paraguay.

Lionel Scaloni’s side will face Venezuela in the quarter finals on June 29 at the iconic Maracana Stadium in the famous city of Rio de Janiero.