Football

Lionel Messi: Qatar win a boost for Argentina

Argentina's 2-0 win over Qatar, their first in a tournament they have yet to set alight, could be the victory they need to kick-start their drive towards the title, Lionel Messi said yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Argentina's win over the Asian champions, thanks to an early goal from Lautaro Martinez and a late strike from Sergio Aguero, has put them into a quarter-final against Venezuela at the Maracana Stadium on Saturday morning (Singapore time).

Barcelona star Messi admitted, though, that there were nerves in the Argentina camp.

"It's tough playing this kind of game due to the necessity, the obligation (to win), the fear of missing out," said Messi, who turned 32 yesterday.

"We played a good game and we won, and that was what mattered. We needed a game like this to gain some confidence and calm. As we play more games, the team grow and that game was good for that.

"This will be an important boost for what's to come... another Copa begins now."

La Albiceleste came into the match under fire after losing their opener 2-0 to Colombia and then being held 1-1 by Paraguay.

Too many of their top players have failed to reproduce their club form at international level, but they were at least creating chances up front against Qatar, even if they were vulnerable at the back throughout.

The score did not reflect the number of chances - Argentina had 17 shots on goal to Qatar's four - but neither did it flatter the Qataris, who matched Argentina for most of the first half before running out of steam.

But while no one should draw too many conclusions from a victory over Qatar, who finished with one point for the tournament, the win sets Argentina up for a run at the title they have not won since 1993.

Coach Lionel Scaloni said he was content with the performance and delighted to still be in with a chance of silverware.

"Of course there are things we can improve on, but we're satisfied," he said.

"We always tried to play football and pressure them high up the pitch. The second half was very good.

"The message has to be that as long as we're in the Copa America, we need to keep pushing forward." - AFP, REUTERS

Football