Football

Lautaro Martinez hails effect of Argentina's Copa America win

He scores in 3-0 win over Uruguay, Messi gets landmark 80th goal for Argentina

Striker Lautaro Martinez said Argentina's Copa America triumph in July, their first major title since 1993, has given them "a lot of strength to continue growing" after they easily dispatched rivals Uruguay 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The win, coupled with Brazil's first dropped points of the Conmebol qualifiers, reduced the gap between second-placed Argentina and the table-topping Selecao to six points after 10 matches.

Seven minutes before the break at the Monumental, Lionel Messi floated a 35-metre pass into the area. It eluded both advancing striker Nicolas Gonzalez and Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and somehow sneaked into the net.

It was his 80th international goal, the most of any South American player.

Six minutes later, Martinez swung and missed a chance on the edge of the box, but the loose ball fell into the path of Rodrigo de Paul, who made no mistake.

Martinez made up for the miss when he converted a low cross from de Paul 17 minutes into the second half.

Albiceleste coach Lionel Scaloni summed up the potential of his side, saying: "When the team can play, the truth is that it makes you want to watch."

Inter Milan attacker Martinez is increasingly one to watch for Argentina, having taken his international tally to 16 goals in 32 caps.

He said: "The Copa America gave us a lot of strength to continue growing and to continue on the path we started - that of patience and... being protagonists...

"We have had many matches where we played very good football for several minutes.

"I believe that today was very complete for the way we pressured the opponent."

Messi seemed to agree, saying: "We played a great match, I think we are growing in terms of our play. We got used to having the ball. Today was a tough match and we had to win it. Everything turned out perfect...

"Once we got the first goal, we started to find space and the goals appeared. It was important to win because we knew the results of the other teams."

The main fixture the Argentinians would have been looking at was Brazil's 0-0 draw with Colombia in Barranquilla.

Despite the draw, Tite's side are still almost certain to qualify for Qatar 2022 as they maintain a 13-point lead over fifth-placed Colombia, with the top four progressing automatically.

Brazil started brightly and dominated the opening stages as Neymar whipped a fierce drive that forced David Ospina to parry at his near post.

Not long after, Neymar's cute reverse pass sent Lucas Paqueta one-on-one with Ospina but, on the stretch, he poked the ball wide.

Substitute Raphinha was at the heart of Brazil's best moments after the break.

He forced Ospina into a save with a left-foot curler and then picked out fellow substitute Antony with a perfect in-swinging delivery, only for Ospina to make a reaction save from point-blank range.

Said Tite: "Neymar was good and so were the whole team.

"Maybe he's expected to do exceptional things all the time and make a difference all the time. He's an exceptional player because he produces exceptional moments, but not all the time... Today he was very well-marked, sometimes with two players on him."

Tite's comments come on the back of Neymar saying in a DAZN documentary: "I think it (2022) will be my last World Cup. I am facing it like the last World Cup because I don't know whether I will be able to, mentally, endure more soccer."

Football