AAP Soccer

Argentina survive Copa America elimination

By AAP Newswire

Lionel Messi has avoided another disappointment with the national team as Argentina advanced the knockout phase of the Copa America, along with Group B winners Colombia.

Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero scored a goal in each half as Argentina defeated tournament guests Qatar 2-0 to secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the South American competition.

"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."

Argentina finished second 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.

Paraguay will advance only if Japan and Ecuador draw on Monday in Group C.

Martinez opened the scoring only four minutes into the match at Arena Gremio when he intercepted a pass from Qatari defender Bassam Al Rawi and found the net with his strike.

Qatar, making their first appearance as a guest in the Copa America, 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.

"The pressure was there," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. "Luckily we got an early goal."

Argentina will face Venezuela on Friday at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for a spot in the last four.

"It will be a difficult opponent," Scaloni said.

"It's an interesting team, it has been playing together for a long time."

In Salvador, Colombia edged Paraguay to maintain their perfect record in Brazil, despite resting a some key players.

The only goal of the match at the Arena Fonte Nova was scored in the 31st minute by midfielder Gustavo Cuellar.

Colombia will play the Group C runners-up in the quarter-finals.

Before the final round of matches on Monday, defending champions Chile lead that group with six points and play Uruguay with four points.