Marquinhos revealed he suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting before rising to the "very complicated" challenge of marking Lionel Messi in Brazil's Copa America semi-final victory over Argentina.

The Paris Saint-Germain defender lasted 64 minutes of the match in Belo Horizonte despite being hit with a virus and, by the time Miranda replaced him, the Selecao were 1-0 up courtesy of Gabriel Jesus' first-half opener.

Roberto Firmino doubled Brazil's lead seven minutes after Marquinhos' departure and head coach Tite saw his back four restrict Argentina's front three of Lautaro Martinez, Sergio Aguero and Messi – although the latter two hit crossbar and post respectively.

Marquinhos hailed Messi's performance as "inspired" but conceded keeping tabs on the Barcelona talisman was a struggle.

"It was not easy, no," he told reporters. "He was on inspired [form that] night. Not only him, as the Argentine team made a great game.

"It was very difficult, but I think the team managed to cancel out the attacks of Argentina well.

"The ones we could not [cancel out] had some lucky chances, with balls hitting the post and Alisson made some great saves. That makes a strong and solid team."

Marquinhos said he received treatment at the stadium medical facility after the game, which saw Brazil progress to the Copa America final for the first time since 2007.

Brazil will play Peru in Sunday's final and the centre-back will hope he can stay fit and healthy as his team-mates aim to lift the trophy for the ninth time.

Describing his illness, Marquinhos added: "On the day of the game, I ended up [suffering from] a virus and I spent the day at the hotel.

"[It was] very complicated. [I had] diarrhoea and vomiting, I still managed to play a little, but with the effort it got worse [during the] game."

"After the game, it ended up getting worse too. I had a fever and I ended up having to go to the stadium infirmary. But I managed to get an injection and I feel better."

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insisted he has already passed a major test of leadership ahead of his team's Copa America third-place play-off against Chile.

After several years of chopping and changing managers, Argentina were hopeful Scaloni would lead them to trophy glory in Brazil to prove without any doubt he is the right man for the job.

He was appointed last year in the wake of Argentina's World Cup failure, when Jorge Sampaoli was in charge.

At the Copa, however, Argentina missed out after losing 2-0 to hosts Brazil in the semi-finals and inevitably that led to questions being asked of Scaloni's leadership.

He addressed that issue on Friday, saying: "I do not feel as though I am on trial. I think my test has already passed. Bringing these players and making them play was my test, and I did it. What we came to do, we did."

Scaloni believes he has selected the best available squad for Argentina and said: "These players will be the future of the national team, whoever the coach is."

His contract runs until the end of the year, and it might help Scaloni's prospects of a longer run at the job if Argentina can deliver an assured performance on Saturday at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.

"The match with Chile is important," said Scaloni. "We want to finish in the best way possible. Everyone is motivated."

The match is a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 final, both of which Chile won on penalties after goalless draws.

Chile's Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda looked back to the title match of three years ago, saying both teams are now in a new era.

Arturo Vidal is a major doubt for the game, Rueda revealed, saying the Barcelona midfielder's sprained ankle needed to be cared for. "But we know his character and his desire to be out there," Rueda added.

The former Honduras and Ecuador boss saw Chile lose 3-0 to Peru in their last-four game and, like Scaloni, he wants to leave Brazil on a winning note.

"It is an important match in every sense," Rueda said. "For dignity, pride and for wanting to finish well in a tournament at which something we achieved something important."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Lionel Messi

Messi was furious with the officiating in Argentina's semi-final defeat, reflecting the mood of a nation after two possible penalties were turned down and not referred to VAR. If he plays, will the Barcelona superstar be in the mood to take out his frustration on Chile? Messi has suggested he is ready to play on at least until next year's Copa America, which Argentina are co-hosting with Colombia, so this is not likely to be a farewell game.

Chile - Alexis Sanchez

While his Manchester United team-mates prepare to jet off to Australia on tour, Sanchez is finishing off his campaign in Brazil. The man who has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford could give United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a close-season boost by signing off from this tournament with a stirring performance - and he could still finish as the Copa America's outright top scorer given he is one of 13 players tied for the lead on two goals.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have won 59 of their 88 meetings against Chile in all competitions (D23 L6).
- Argentina lost on the only previous occasion they played in a third-place play-off in a Copa America tournament, beaten 2-1 by Colombia in 1987.
- This will be the first third-place play-off between two teams that have faced each other before in a Copa America final.
- Chile and Argentina lost their semi-final games against Peru and Brazil, respectively, despite having attempted 10 shots more than their opponents (Chile 19-9 Peru; Argentina 14-4 Brazil).
- Chile's Charles Aranguiz has created the most chances (17) in the 2019 Copa America; at least four more than any other player.

Sonny Bill Williams is a doubt for New Zealand's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina due to a hamstring injury.

The Blues centre was this week named in the initial All Blacks squad for the clashes with the Pumas in Buenos Aires on July 20 and South Africa in Wellington a week later.

Williams may not be available to feature for the world champions, though, as he is suffering from a tight hamstring.

The 33-year-old missed much of the Super Rugby season after undergoing knee surgery.

Williams played 50 minutes in a club match for Ponsonby against Grammar TEC last week before suffering another fitness setback.

The powerful midfielder has been linked with a return to rugby league after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Sergio Aguero was angered by refereeing decisions as Argentina lost to Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America.

Brazil ran out 2-0 winners in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday despite Argentina recording 14 shots to the tournament hosts' four.

Aguero hit the crossbar with a header and Argentina captain Lionel Messi later struck the post, while Lionel Scaloni's side twice saw penalty appeals rejected.

Messi described decisions that went against his team as "bulls***" in the aftermath and Aguero, who appeared to be fouled by Dani Alves in the box, was similarly disparaging over the performance of referee Roddy Zambrano and his colleagues.

"The feeling is not good. The second goal was controversial," Aguero told reporters.

"Juan [Foyth] stops, thinking that the referee was going to stop. VAR worked very well until today - incredible!

"We do not pay attention to those things on the pitch, except for the blow that Dani Alves gives me from behind.

"I do not know why he [the referee] did not check it. At the time, he may not see it, and they told us that the VAR would become like a fifth referee."

There were contrasting emotions for Aguero's Manchester City team-mate Gabriel Jesus, who scored the opening goal and then superbly set up Roberto Firmino to clinch Brazil's first Copa final appearance since 2007.

"I'm speechless. I consider every match to be important, even the ones I don't perform well, because I take lessons from them," said Jesus, who struck his first goal of the tournament.

"Tonight I decided I was going to score, I was very confident from the kick-off. I missed a chance, then I managed to score. Firmino was able to spot me well, it gave me confidence.

"I'm very happy not only for the goal, but for how the team performed. Last week I've said they would struggle to break our defence. We worked hard and battled hard tonight.

"Unfortunately we couldn't score against Paraguay but we grabbed the goals tonight. Everyone should be pleased for the match they played, for the effort.

"This is Brazil! We have to play every match as we've been playing, with the same spirit, that we will achieve our goals."

Brazil, who have kept clean sheets in all five of their matches, will play either Peru or defending champions Chile in Sunday's final.

Lionel Messi railed against refereeing decisions as Brazil knocked Argentina out of the Copa America, the Barcelona star's rage coming after he suffered yet more international heartbreak.

Messi lost international finals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but Argentina fell in the last four of this year's tournament, Brazil running out 2-0 winners in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

His lack of success for the national team - outside of the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and striking gold at the Olympic Games three years later - contrasts sharply with his club career, with Messi inspiring Barcelona to 10 LaLiga titles as well as four Champions League crowns.

Messi will likely have another shot at glory as the Copa America is being held again in 2020 - Argentina are co-hosts with Colombia - but how have things gone wrong for him in Albiceleste colours?

 

World Cup final (2014): Argentina 0-1 Germany (aet)

When measured against the all-time greats, one thing has always proven to be easy pickings for Messi's detractors – unlike Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona, he has not won a World Cup.

That argument could have been laid to rest in Brazil, where Messi scored four goals to help Alejandro Sabella's side secure a final clash with Germany.

But Messi was below-par at the Maracana and Argentina fell to a 1-0 extra-time loss courtesy of Mario Gotze's goal, with the Barca star having fired a late free-kick off target.

He was named the player of the tournament in the immediate aftermath but showed little interest in the award as a far greater prize had just slipped through his fingers.

 

Copa America final (2015): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 1-4 pens)

Messi did not shy away from his spot-kick duties when the 2015 Copa America final went to penalties against hosts Chile.

At the end of a tournament in which Messi scored just once, he stepped up to take Argentina's opening effort, just as he had in the quarter-final win over Colombia.

The result was the same – Messi found the net. However, he was then reduced to the role of spectator.

And what followed was agonising to watch for the forward, as misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega preceded Alexis Sanchez's decisive strike.

 

Copa America final (2016): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 2-4 pens)

The Copa America Centenario proved a far more productive one for Messi, who hit five goals in Argentina's march to yet another final against Chile.

Gerardo Martino's men scored 18 times in the United States, including a 2-1 triumph over Chile on their way to winning Group D.

But when the final rolled around, the goals dried up, with a 0-0 stalemate ensuring more shoot-out drama.

Messi again went first, but this time blazed over the crossbar as Chile defended their title. The crushing blow of the subsequent loss forced him into a decision to retire from the international game, though he later changed his mind.

 

World Cup last 16 (2018): France 4-3 Argentina

After a poor qualifying campaign, Messi dragged Argentina to Russia 2018 single-handedly with a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador, but he could not repeat the magic at the tournament.

A superb goal against Nigeria helped Jorge Sampaoli's side squeeze through the group stage, Argentina having opened with a draw against Iceland before losing 3-0 to Croatia.

But despite Messi recording a brace of assists in the first knockout round, France ran out 4-3 winners in Kazan on their way to winning the trophy.

Argentina captain Messi subsequently refused to speak to the media and took nine months out of the international spotlight amid speculation he would not play for his country again.


Copa America semi-final (2019): Brazil 2-0 Argentina

Messi did return to play for his country in the build-up to the Copa America, but there was yet more disappointment for the 32-year-old on the international stage.

He struggled to show his best form in Brazil, with a penalty against Paraguay his only goal of the tournament heading into the semi-finals.

Although unplayable at times in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's defence kept a fifth clean sheet in a row as Messi struck the post with a shot and set up Sergio Aguero for a header that hit the crossbar.

Whether Messi, who argued Aguero should have had a penalty at 1-0, is willing to put himself through the hurt again remains to be seen, but the chance to have one last Copa crack - and on home soil - will be tempting.

Lionel Messi is an "alien" but Brazil were able to neutralise him in their Copa America semi-final defeat of Argentina, according to Tite.

Gabriel Jesus scored the opening goal and set up Roberto Firmino for the clincher as Brazil won 2-0 in Belo Horizonte to reach the final for the first time since 2007.

Their clinical triumph heaped more international misery on Messi, whose Argentina team were beaten on penalties by Chile in the previous two finals.

Argentina's captain strongly criticised referee decisions after the game, branding the officiating "bulls***", while coach Lionel Scaloni insisted his side deserved to win.

But Tite, whose Brazil side have yet to concede a goal at this year's tournament, was thrilled with the way a defence led by Thiago Silva marshalled Messi.

"I talked to Scaloni, maybe after he spoke to you [the media], but Messi is an alien. Messi is exceptional," the Brazil coach told reporters.

"He deserves such consideration, that reverence he deserves. And to neutralise such a player, with your actions on the field, you can't stop him. 

"We had to tinker with the structure of the team, so we brought Firmino a little further back to close the midfield to reduce his actions, and also to explore our speed.

"We scored and then got less possession of the ball than we normally do, but we brought effectiveness and we were decisive.

"It's another step, happy, but it's another step to the final and tomorrow [Wednesday] we will see the other opponent."

Brazil were without Richarlison, Filipe Luis and Fernandinho against Argentina but Tite hopes the trio may be available for the final, which will be played against either Chile or Peru on Sunday.

"Filipe Luis is already recovering from the injury, but as for the physical aspect, he could not withstand the 90 minutes, even more with a possibility of extra time," Tite added.

"And on the other hand, Alex Sandro has come in very well. Fernandinho is in a process of evolution, maybe if I needed him during the game, he would come in. Even with some restriction.

"And Richarlison, I do not know, but he's had a good recovery time for mumps. I believe the time has passed."

An angry Lionel Messi blasted the refereeing after Argentina were denied two penalties in a Copa America semi-final loss to Brazil.

Goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino saw Brazil overcome Argentina 2-0 in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

However, Argentina hit the woodwork twice through Sergio Aguero and Messi, and twice had penalty shouts turned down.

Nicolas Otamendi went down under a heavy challenge from Arthur following a corner and Aguero appeared to be brought down by Dani Alves, the latter occurring just before Firmino's sealer.

Messi felt Argentina deserved two spot-kicks, with the VAR – which has dominated headlines at the Copa America – not asking the referee to look at either incident.

"They were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty [to Aguero] they didn't award," Messi told reporters.

"They [the officials] had booked a lot of bulls***, but they didn't even check the VAR, that's incredible.

"That happened all over the game. At the first glance of contact, they ruled in their [Brazil's] favour and this kind of bulls*** distracted us from the game.

"There is no excuses for us, but we need to review this, analyse it and let's hope CONMEBOL does something about it."

Messi, whose wait for a first senior trophy with the national team continues, praised Argentina's performance against Brazil.

"I think we played a great game. We made a great effort and they were not superior to us," he said.

Messi added: "If I have to help from somewhere, I'm going to do it. I felt very good with this group."

Lionel Scaloni felt Argentina deserved to win their Copa America semi-final against Brazil after suffering a 2-0 loss on Tuesday.

Argentina had their chances in Belo Horizonte, but fell after goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino for Brazil.

Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi hit the woodwork for Scaloni's side, who enjoyed plenty of possession after the hosts opted to sit back having gone 1-0 up.

Scaloni, who was unhappy with the refereeing amid suggestions Argentina could have been awarded two penalties, felt his team deserved a place in the final.

"On merit, the team that should have gone to the final was Argentina," he told a news conference.

"We were superior to Brazil."

Scaloni added: "We showed that this group of players feel the shirt like nobody [else].

"We leave an image for the future of this national team and a very good way forward."

Aguero hit the crossbar after Jesus' opener, while Messi struck the post in the second half, before Firmino's sealer.

Asked about his future at the helm, Scaloni – in his first management job – said it was not the time to discuss his position.

"I don't think it's time to talk about it, because that's the least of my worries right now," he said.

"I want to be with my players and share this hard moment."

Brazil moved into their first Copa America final since 2007 with a 2-0 win over Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Gabriel Jesus starred for Tite's men, scoring the opener before setting up Roberto Firmino's sealer in the semi-final at the Estadio Mineirao.

Led by Lionel Messi, Argentina had their chances, hitting the woodwork twice through the star forward and Sergio Aguero.

But their chances were dashed by Firmino's 71st-minute goal as eight-time champions Brazil reached the decider.

In what was a frantic start, Leandro Paredes went close for Argentina, his powerful effort from range going just over.

Jesus had looked bright early and he opened the scoring for Brazil in the 19th minute.

Dani Alves did brilliantly to release Firmino down the right side of the area, the forward crossing for Jesus to convert from close range.

As Brazil appeared content to sit back after their opener, Argentina went close to an equaliser on the half-hour mark.

Messi's well-weighted set-piece from a central area was met by Aguero, whose header bounced back off the crossbar.

Philippe Coutinho had a great chance to double Brazil's lead in the 56th minute, the attacker blazing over after being set up following a wonderful turn by Jesus.

And, just a minute later, Argentina hit the woodwork again, Messi's volley from the left side of the area bouncing off the post after a blocked Lautaro Martinez shot fell to the star.

Argentina continued to dominate as they looked for an equaliser, Messi's 20-yard free-kick comfortably saved by Alisson in the 66th minute.

Instead, Brazil struck on the counter-attack to double their lead thanks to some excellent work from Jesus.

Jesus led a break with a brilliant run from inside his own half before composing himself to square for Firmino to tap in and make it 2-0.

That was the decisive blow as Brazil, who had already sat back after their opener, held firm to progress to the final.

What does it mean? Belo Horizonte ghosts brushed aside

At the scene of their 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, Brazil found a way – and got some luck. Argentina hit the woodwork twice, but Brazil did enough to reach their first Copa America final since 2007.

Brazil continue Argentina dominance thanks to Jesus

Brazil have never lost a competitive game at home to Argentina and that record was maintained, thanks largely to Jesus. The Manchester City forward was exceptional throughout, scoring once and assisting the other while causing constant problems.

Messi's wait goes on

Now 32, Messi's wait for a first senior title with Argentina continues. The star struggled to find top form at the Copa America, although he looked threatening against Brazil.

What's next?

Brazil will face either Chile or Peru in the final on Sunday, while Argentina meet the loser of that clash in the third-place play-off a day earlier.

Lionel Messi continues his bid to end a career-long wait for major international silverware with Argentina, but Brazil stand in his way at the Copa America.

Messi has acknowledged his form has yet to peak at this year's tournament, Argentina's captain scoring only once in four games to date – a strike that came from the penalty spot.

With Argentina having lost each of the past two Copa America finals to Chile on spot-kicks, Messi will be determined to right that wrong in Brazil, though he failed to convert a strong personal desire for 2018-19 Champions League success into glory for Barcelona.

"He's playing well, for me, he's doing things right, he's not just scoring goals, which is what he usually does," Angel Di Maria said to Diario Ole. "He's running, giving everything, that's very important. He knows more than anyone that in the Copa America you have to run and think of others."

Having seemingly hit their stride in a 5-0 demolition of Peru, Brazil then needed penalties to knock out a stubborn Paraguay in the quarter-finals. They have drawn a blank in two of their past three Copa games.

Like Messi, Brazil are desperate for international success with a ninth Copa triumph likely to go some way to healing the still painful wounds from their 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany on home soil in the World Cup semi-finals five years ago.

Gremio winger Everton has sporadically impressed as a replacement for injured talisman Neymar, ruled out of the tournament by an ankle injury sustained in a friendly against Qatar, with Tite often fielding Gabriel Jesus from the right.

But failing to break down both Venezuela and Paraguay indicates a rethink may be required with Everton attacker Richarlison potentially an option to come into the front line after he recovered from a bout of mumps.

Midfield duo Arthur and Casemiro return from suspension but Fernandinho (knee) is a doubt and left-back Filipe Luis (thigh) may not be able to start for the hosts either.

Neither side head into Tuesday's clash in particularly good form but Brazil against Argentina, a fixture the Selecao have won four times in a row at the Copa America and arguably the biggest rivalry in international football, surely cannot fail to deliver drama.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil - Gabriel Jesus

Handed Manchester City's number nine shirt during the tournament, Jesus has yet to score his first Copa America goal but he could argue not being used as a central forward has affected his ability to find the net. Jesus did convert the winning penalty to down Paraguay in the last round, but another start on the right seems likely and he will have to find a way to make an impact from wide areas.

Argentina - Sergio Aguero

Jesus' City team-mate Aguero will not be shunted to the flank, but he has similarly been unable to show his typically prolific form in front of goal. A single strike against Asian Cup winners Qatar is not an impressive return for Aguero given he has Messi serving him and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez - who has been linked with a surprise switch to Barcelona - has outscored him by netting in successive matches.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil have never lost a competitive game at home against Argentina (W8 D2), and are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with their rivals in all competitions (W6 D1).
- Argentina have made it through to the final each of the last five times they reached the Copa America semis; indeed, they only failed to progress from the last four in 1987, when they lost 1-0 at home against Uruguay.
- Brazil have attempted the most (84) and have faced the fewest (24) shots so far in the 2019 Copa America – they have only faced five shots on target.
- Philippe Coutinho has been involved in the most shots so far in the 2019 Copa America: 29 (16 attempts and 13 chances created) – at least 12 more than any other Brazilian or Argentinian player (Roberto Firmino, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi all on 17).
- Brazil have made it through to the final in each of the last six occasions they reached the Copa America semi-finals; the last time they failed to progress from this stage was in 1979, against Paraguay (two legs).

Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso were on target for Argentina as they downed Venezuela 2-0 to set up a mouth-watering Copa America semi-final against hosts Brazil.

Martinez's instinctive 10th-minute finish was his sixth goal in 10 international appearances and due reward as Lionel Scaloni's men made a rapid start.

They faded during the second half but Lo Celso capitalised upon an error from Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez to settle matters at the Maracana - the stadium where Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

It means Lionel Messi's ambitions of a first international title remain on track, with Argentina's bitterest rivals now standing in his way.

Martinez displayed his burgeoning understanding with Sergio Aguero in attack by playing in the Manchester City striker with a deft early pass – Farinez saving with his feet.

The set-piece deliveries of Messi and Leandro Paredes were causing Venezuela problems and, after an unmarked German Pezzella should have opened the scoring, Martinez duly did.

The Inter star converted a wonderful backheel from Aguero's miscued shot and quickfire bookings for captain Tomas Rincon and fellow midfielder Yangel Herrera soon afterwards suggested Venezuela were losing their composure.

Jhon Chancellor powered over a chance to equalise in the 40th minute, although Rafael Dudamel's side needed a brilliant clearance from Roberto Rosales to prevent Martinez from turning in a second after slick interplay between Messi and Marcos Acuna.

Martinez crashed against the back stanchion after Paredes unpicked Venezuela with a sumptuous 48th-minute pass.

Dudamel boldly sent on winger Yeferson Soteldo for centre-back Luis Del Pino and Argentina were forced to absorb sustained pressure for the first time in the contest.

Franco Armani saved sharply from Ronaldo Hernandez after Scaloni's decision to withdraw Martinez and Acuna raised eyebrows.

Farinez's work at the other end contrasted horribly when he spilled Aguero's 74th-minute shot to leave Lo Celso with a tap-in.

What does it mean: Scaloni's Argentina taking shape before showdown with old enemy

Scaloni's sparse coaching credentials were pored over as Argentina staggered through the opening matches of their campaign. This was easily his team's best performance of the tournament until his questionable second-half changes, with Paredes excelling in a midfield three where Acuna provided much-needed edge. La Albiceleste's attacking prowess has never been in doubt but a shaky backline enjoyed greater protection and Armani handled soundly throughout.

Martinez shows ruthless streak again

As he did in the vital group win over Qatar, Martinez gave Argentina an early lead – his supreme poaching instincts to the fore. More importantly, the 21-year-old appears entirely unhindered by the weight of expectation and failures that has sapped many of his compatriots over recent years.

Messi short of brilliant best

It was largely a game of personal frustration for Messi, who was largely well shackled by combative opponents. But his delight at Argentina's progress was clear and it bodes well that a team so shambolic of late were able to prevail with their talisman short of the A-game he will surely need against Brazil.

What's next: The Copa clash the world wants to see

As unlikely as it seemed when Argentina toyed with group-stage elimination, the two great rivals in South American football now have the chance to produce a clash for the ages in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. Despite their shot-shy efforts against Paraguay, Brazil will be favourites. But are Argentina just about clicking at the right time?

An improved Argentina cruised to a 2-0 win over Qatar to revive their stuttering Copa America campaign and progress to the quarter-finals along with Group B winners Colombia.

On a night when defeat would have seen them bomb out of the competition, the Albiceleste were rarely troubled at Gremio Arena, where Lautaro Martinez fired them into an early lead after a Bassam Al Rawi error gifted him the simplest of chances.

It was not a vintage Argentina performance by any stretch of the imagination, but after defeat to Colombia and a draw with Paraguay in their opening matches, coach Lionel Scaloni will have been relieved to see his side dominate for large spells to set up a meeting with Venezuela. 

Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi both had numerous opportunities to extend Argentina's lead and the Manchester City forward did so eight minutes from time as tournament guests Qatar were dumped out of the competition despite some impressive displays.

Al Rawi's woeful clearance was easily intercepted by Martinez, who simply side-footed it into the bottom corner of the net to give Scaloni's men a fourth-minute lead.

Franco Armani had to hurtle off his line to narrow the angle on Hassan Al Haydos as he bore down on goal, the Argentina goalkeeper getting a hand to the Qatar captain's lob to keep his side in front.

But the 2022 World Cup hosts rarely threatened and were fortunate to go in trailing by only a solitary goal after Aguero fired tamely wide when Messi presented him with a golden opportunity from the edge of the box.

Aguero missed a trio of second-half chances as Qatar struggled to contain him, and goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb did well to parry the striker's stinging close-range volley.

Al Sheeb made another diving save from an Aguero pile-driver before Messi uncharacteristically ballooned over the crossbar from 12 yards with the whole goal to aim at.

Aguero finally got his goal after outpacing Boualem Khoukhi and drilling a low shot that beat Al Sheeb and bulged the bottom corner of the net to make sure of the result.

What does it mean? Crisis averted – for now

Had Argentina been forced to pack their bags, the inquest back home would have been tempestuous. As it stands Scaloni can breathe again, but he must continue to demand further improvements as his players head into the last eight.

Aguero just the tonic

After Messi and Martinez laboured in a front two in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Paraguay last time out, the addition of Aguero in a three-pronged attack did the trick here.

Al Rawi error costs Qatar

Given the way Argentina bossed the first half it is unlikely Qatar would have kept them at bay had Al Rawi not opened the door to them, but in doing so he tarnished his side's chances.

What's next?

Argentina will face Group A runners-up Venezuela in the quarter-finals, while Qatar return home with only one point but plenty of new admirers after some good moments in their three group games.

Lionel Messi is struggling to comprehend how Argentina are in danger of Copa America group-stage elimination as they prepare to face Qatar in a crucial clash on Sunday.

Argentina lost to Colombia in their first game and could only draw with Paraguay last time out, leaving them bottom of Group B, below Qatar on goal difference.

La Albiceleste have been in turmoil for 12 months, having endured a miserable World Cup campaign that cost Jorge Sampaoli his job, and they have rarely looked like a cohesive unit since Lionel Scaloni stepped up to the position.

Failure to get out of the group at the Copa America would be a new low, particularly given third place could be enough to see them progress.

"We have to think positively and keep our confidence," Messi told reporters. "We need to improve and arrive in the best shape possible for the next match... and we have to win.

"It would be crazy if we couldn't progress from the group given there are practically three teams that go through.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy playing in a Copa America, we're searching for a team, for a performance.

"Venezuela made it hard for Brazil. At the moment, we're not winning any more in the [Argentina] shirt and we have to put things right to earn the three points against Qatar."

Tournament guests Qatar have given a solid account of themselves so far, with the 2019 Asian Cup champions drawing 2-2 with Paraguay in their opener before suffering a slender 1-0 defeat to Colombia, one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

Qatar defender Tarek Salman was particularly impressed by the side's showing against Colombia, but hopes they learn from their mistakes against Argentina.

"We are proud with our display against Colombia. Hopefully we will do well against Argentina also," he said.

"It was a tough match against Colombia. We deserved a draw. We had a lot of chances to score while the Colombians played one of their best matches.

"These are the games you see now, and we have to forget this clash and look to our meeting against Argentina."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Qatar – Almoez Ali

The star of the Qatar side and their biggest threat in attack, Ali will surely be crucial to their hopes of securing a spot in the next round. It is difficult to see Argentina drawing a blank, meaning the goalscoring burden will be on Ali.

Argentina – Lionel Messi

As ever, all eyes will be on Messi, regardless of how well the rest of the team plays. As their talisman and captain, all of Argentina will be hoping Messi can weave his magic to avoid humiliation.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have lost only two of their last 23 games against Asian countries in all competitions (W18 D3). Both were friendlies, against China in 1984 (0-1) and Japan in 2010 (0-1).
- Argentina have won their last six games against Asian countries on neutral venues: three in World Cups, one in the Confederations Cup and two in friendlies.
- The last time Argentina failed to progress from the group stage of a Copa America was in 1983, when only one of three teams per group was advancing.
- Argentina have earned only one point in their first two matches of the tournament, their worst Copa America start since 1979, when they lost their first two games.
- Messi was the only player from Argentina to have more than one shot on target (two) in the draw against Paraguay. Both came from set-pieces (a direct free-kick and a penalty).

Lionel Messi scored a second-half penalty but Argentina were left facing a Copa America group-stage exit after a 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Wednesday.

Messi converted a 57th-minute spot-kick after Argentina had fallen behind to a Richard Sanchez goal in Belo Horizonte.

Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was needed to keep his side level shortly after the hour-mark, though, saving a Derlis Gonzalez penalty.

The draw saw Argentina earn their first point in Group B, but they remain bottom behind Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.

While Argentina enjoyed the better start, the game lacked any rhythm in the opening 20 minutes after numerous fouls and stoppages.

It was Paraguay who created the best chance of the opening half-hour, Gonzalez's strike deflected just wide after a counter-attack.

Messi had an opportunity for Argentina in the 34th minute, but the Barcelona star's free-kick from 30 yards lacked the power to trouble Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

Paraguay would break the deadlock before half-time through Sanchez's first international goal.

Newcastle United midfielder Miguel Almiron set up the goal with a brilliant run down the left, before crossing for Sanchez to finish into the bottom corner from inside the area.

Lautaro Martinez hit the crossbar for Argentina six minutes into the second half after good work from half-time substitute Sergio Aguero, but it was that moment that led to the equaliser.

Argentina were awarded a penalty after a VAR review, with replays showing Martinez's strike hit the arm of Ivan Piris.

Messi stepped up, putting the penalty into the bottom corner for his 68th international goal.

However, Paraguay were awarded a spot-kick of their own after a poor challenge by Nicolas Otamendi on Gonzalez, but Armani dived low to his left to push away the penalty in the 63rd minute.

Martinez headed over soon after for Argentina and both teams struggled to create chances late on as they shared the spoils.

 

What does it mean? Argentina's fate out of their own hands

Lionel Scaloni's men needed a win against Paraguay to get back on track, but will now be left relying on other results going their way. They will look to beat Qatar in their final group game and that may not be enough to finish in the top two, although they could also be one of the two best third-placed teams.

Argentina retain unbeaten record

It was only a draw, but Argentina retained their record of never losing to Paraguay at the Copa America. That run is now up to 25 games, including 19 wins and six draws.

Aguero, Di Maria benching continues confusion

Scaloni opted for four changes to his starting XI from the team beaten by Colombia, including dropping Aguero and Angel Di Maria to the bench. Both were introduced in the second half and the former caused some problems, but it indicated some uncertainty from Scaloni regarding his best XI.

What's next?

Argentina face Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday, while Paraguay meet Colombia in Salvador.

Lionel Messi must be stopped by a collective effort from Paraguay in Wednesday's crunch Copa America clash, according to their head coach Eduardo Berizzo.

Both teams endured disappointing starts to the continental showpiece, with Paraguay letting a two-goal lead slip in their 2-2 draw against Qatar, while Argentina were abject in a 2-0 loss to Colombia.

As his quest for major honours with his country trudges on, Argentina will again look to Messi for inspiration and former Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss Berizzo concedes there is no easy solution when it comes to tackling the Barcelona superstar.

"To annul a player like Messi is not an individual task, it is a collective task," he told reporters ahead of taking on his native country.

"When you try to neutralise him, he opens the way [for others]. So the question is not centred only on him, but on the possibilities that are generated from him for other players."

Paraguay's late collapse against Qatar stung Berizzo and he wants to see a response from his players – particularly in terms of game management when they are in possession.

"We have talked about what happened and what we have to improve," he added.

"That is control of the ball and [making sure] that the process of the match does not escape us depending on the result.

"We have to sustain the plan from beginning to end."

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