Porto Alegre (Brazil): Argentina downed Qatar 2-0 courtesy goals by Lautaro Martinez and Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero, thus moving to the quarterfinals for Group B in Copa America.
Sunday, the Argentine squad played acceptably, without any real flashes of brilliance although they controlled the game all the way through and Qatar never really threatened, before 39,100 fans at Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre.
Argentina had been in last place in Group B, having lost to Colombia 2-0 and battled Paraguay to a 1-1 draw, and the so far rather disorganized squad was desperate for the win on Sunday to get them through to the elimination stage.
Prior to the match, Qatar had an identical 0-1-1 record, although they were one spot in front of Argentina on goal differential. They had fought back to a draw from a two-goal deficit in the second half against Paraguay but then had gone down to a 1-0 defeat against Colombia.
Lautaro took advantage of a Qatari gift in the 4th minute to open the scoring and Aguero made a great individual effort on a powerful shot in the 82nd minute for the second tally.
The first goal came when a Qatari defender mistakenly tapped the ball to Inter Milan’s Martinez right at the edge of the penalty area and the striker beat goaltender Saad Al-Sheeb to put the squad up 1-0 almost before anyone knew what had happened.
Later during the first half, Aguero had a fabulous opportunity to put Argentina another goal ahead but he fired low and wide of the goal from about 12 meters.
After the break, Argentina seemed to get its act together and started manufacturing much better chances for themselves, but Al-Sheeb still managed to defend well against the driving Aguero, saving two shots on goal from the Man City striker.
Lionel Messi – who otherwise didn’t seem to factor in the match much at all – tried a close-range shot about 30 minutes into the second half but it sailed over the crossbar.
The second goal came as the ever-present Aguero was on the scene again eight minutes before regulation time expired, firing a powerful low shot that finally got by Al-Sheeb for the 2-0.
With the result, and Paraguay’s 1-0 loss to first-place Colombia in Group B, Argentina now sit in second place in the group and will go up against Venezuela in the quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro June 28.