Visit IAAF special preview page
Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
Visit IAAF special preview page
Visit IAAF special preview page

‘We will continue to work hard and get better at the next Copa’

It was a narrow escape for Argentina in Brazil. Qatar gave the former World Champions a scare. So, why did a win prove elusive for the Maroons?
Coach Felix Sanchez

Coach Felix Sanchez admitted his side lacked experience against top sides as Qatar bowed out of the Copa America with their second defeat in Group B on Sunday.

Qatar, who needed to beat Argentina to make the quarterfinal, fell 2-0 in Porto Alegre but not before pushing Lionel Messi and Company to the limit, something that will give the young team plenty to cheer about.

Sanchez said that his team “made mistakes, perhaps because of lack of experience” at crucial moments in their three games.

“We may have lacked the great experience at crucial moments, and yes, these games were very demanding for us,” Sanchez told a news conference after the 2-0 loss to Argentina.

“In addition to the feeling of regret, we are aware that we must continue to work to compete and get better results in the next edition of Copa America,” the Spaniard added.

Qatar will make another Copa America appearance next year along with Australia, the other invited team to the world’s oldest tournament.

The coach said his team conceded two goals due to “small errors”.

“We firmly believe that competing in these tournaments is the way to improve, gain experience and the right level to fight these teams,” Sanchez said.

“The overall performance of the team and each individual player was very upscale, we leave with the feeling that we were able to compete well,” he added.

 In the match, an early goal by Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero’s late second gave Argentina a 2-0 win that qualified them for the Copa America quarterfinal.

Already-qualified Colombia beat Paraguay 1-0 in the other Group B match to secure a place in the last eight for both Peru, who finished third in Group A, and Uruguay, currently second in Group C.

Argentina, who finished second in Group B behind Colombia, will play Venezuela at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium in the quarterfinal, while tournament debutants and guests Qatar are out.

Paraguay, on two points, must wait and see what happens in the Group C clash between Japan and Ecuador before finding out if they qualify as one of the two best third-place finishers.

Peru, with four points, are sure of that while only a draw between Japan and Ecuador would see Paraguay progress.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni recalled Manchester City forward Aguero for the crunch tie against Qatar while Martinez kept his place at the expense of Angel Di Maria.

Asian champions Qatar made a calamitous start when a weak headed clearance from Tarek Salman fell to Martinez 12 yards out, but the Inter Milan forward sent his volley over the top.

He didn’t have to wait long for another chance though as Bassam al-Rawi played a ball across his box and straight to the feet of the Argentina forward, who scuffed a shot into the bottom corner after just four minutes.

“The goal came early and that allowed us to approach the game with greater calmness,” said Martinez.

 “There was pressure, we had to win to progress and we’re happy. Now we have to work hard.”

With the weight was lifted from Argentina’s shoulders, they played with a freedom expected of a side boasting talents such as Aguero and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

Qatar’s talented forwards looked dangerous when they did venture into the final third. Hasan al-Haydos got in behind the Argentina backline and tried to chip Franco Armani but the goalkeeper got a touch to divert the ball behind, although the linesman’s flag was up and it wouldn’t have counted.

Messi burst into life with an acceleration towards Qatar’s area before slipping a pass to Aguero, who dragged his left-footed shot wide under pressure.

Qatar were sporadically dangerous on the break and Portuguese-born Ro-Ro stole in at the back post to meet a Karim Boudiaf cross but couldn’t direct his volley on target.

Up the other end, Nicolas Otamendi headed over from close range when it looked easier to score. Argentina almost scored a second after Qatar goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb spilled a header by Martinez causing a scramble in the box, but neither Aguero nor Martinez could poke the ball home.

Al-Rawi almost made amends for his earlier gaffe with a free-kick at the end of the half but his shot, which passed through the Argentina wall, clipped the outside of the upright.

Another direct Messi run set up Aguero but his shot was deflected over by Boualem Khoukhi. Aguero then drew a save from al-Sheeb with a shot from outside the area.

Aguero finally scored the goal his industry deserved with a purposeful run past two defenders before sending a cross-shot into the far bottom corner eight minutes from time.

Qatar shared points with former champions Paraguay in a 2-2 draw and then conceded a late goal against Colombia in a 1-0 loss.