Australia will battle old demons after being thrust into the same group as Jordan in the second round of AFC qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The draw took place in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday and put the Socceroos on a collision course with a team that has had their measure in recent years.

Jordan have won three of five meetings since 2012, among them a 1-0 victory at the Asian Cup in January.

Chinese Taipei, Kuwait and Nepal round out Group B.

Asia's top-ranked team, Iran, are to face Bahrain, Cambodia, Hong Kong and the tricky Iraq in Group C.

Continental champions Qatar, heavyweights Japan, and South Korea, who beat Germany at the last World Cup, have each been handed straightforward paths into the third round of qualifying.

The group winners and four best runners-up advance to the third qualifying phase, with those 12 teams to also qualify automatically for the Asian Cup in four years' time.

The next best 24 teams will compete in a separate qualifying competition to determine the remaining places at China 2023.

Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam

Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal

Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia

Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore

Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar

Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia

Group G: UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia

Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka

Lionel Messi is urging Argentina to find another level after securing a spot in the Copa America knockout phase, telling them a new tournament begins now.

Argentina produced an improved performance on Sunday, beating Qatar 2-0 to revive what had been a stuttering campaign.

Defeat would have seen Argentina crash out of the tournament in humiliating fashion, but Lautaro Martinez put them ahead early on and they never looked back.

Sergio Aguero got the clincher, and although it was by no means a vintage display, La Albiceleste got the job done when under pressure.

Messi is now urging his team-mates to forget about the group stage – which included a draw with Paraguay and defeat to Colombia – as they embark on the knockout phase, having been impressed with their attitude against Qatar.

"Now beings another Copa," he told reporters.

"We needed a victory like that to gain confidence, now we have the obligation to win to advance, but we came [into the match] in a different way [to the previous games].

"The attitude was what I liked the most. We knew what we had to do and it's difficult to play those games.

"We created situations and we did not suffer much against an opponent that the rest of the group found complicated."

Argentina will face Venezuela - second in Group A - in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez said the Copa America and a showdown with Lionel Messi provided great experience for the Asian champions.

Messi's Argentina progressed to the quarter-finals thanks to a 2-0 Group B win over guests Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday.

Qatar had a chance to advance, with the Asian Cup winners and 2022 World Cup hosts third ahead of Argentina on goal difference prior to kick-off.

But Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero extinguished Qatar's hopes as Argentina finished runners-up behind Colombia, though Sanchez took plenty away from his team's campaign in South America.

"Of course, a player like Leo Messi can make a difference," Sanchez told reporters. "Sometimes with goals, or with assists.

"We tried to mark the pass lines so that he did not participate so much in the game, but we know that it is difficult because he occupies several areas of the field.

"I think we managed to make sure that Leo Messi did not score goals, but in the end, we conceded two goals and the result is the same.

"But it was worth the experience, playing with a team with the most decisive player in the world. Another experience to learn and improve Qatar in the future."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said the pressure on his players made it feel like they were at war after a 2-0 win over Qatar earned them a place in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Goals from Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero ensured the Albiceleste avoided a potential banana skin on a night when defeat would have sent them crashing out of the competition at the first hurdle.

Victory teed up a quarter-final clash with Group A runners-up Venezuela and Scaloni admitted the result was a welcome one after a gruelling start to the competition.

"We have things to improve but we are satisfied," said Scaloni. "We needed a game like that to gain confidence.

"Especially in the second half, we played without fear.

"We will have to adjust some things against other types of opponents."

Scaloni came under fire after his players lost to Colombia and drew with Paraguay in their opening games of the competition and failed to play with the confidence and urgency on display against Qatar.

He dismissed the impact of that criticism on him personally, saying: "I never think of myself. I always think of the national team.

"I would like the message to be different, to be balanced at the end of the tournament. Everything surrounding the national team should be more balanced.

"Sometimes, these guys go out to play a soccer game and they seem to go out and play a war. With the pressure on them sometimes it is difficult to play.

"The message should be that while playing in the Copa America we are all on the same side."

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.

Felix Sanchez said Qatar are not at the Copa America to take selfies with Lionel Messi as the tournament guests look to stun Argentina and qualify for the quarter-finals.

Qatar and Argentina – runners-up in 2015 and 2016 – will meet in Porto Alegre on Sunday, with a quarter-final berth on the line.

Asian Cup champions and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar have one point from two games and are ahead of Argentina on goal difference in Group B, with third spot potentially enough to progress to the knockout phase.

The pressure is on Messi and Argentina to avoid a group-stage exit and Qatar head coach Sanchez insisted his side will not be overawed by the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"It's true we are not very well known in South America, but we have super-professional players and we've come to compete, not to take photos with Messi," Sanchez told reporters.

"They're the favourites and are obliged to win. We'll try to compete against a great team who have the best player in the world.

"We have a chance to qualify and that's what's exciting, not the fact we could knock out a monster like Argentina."

Messi scored in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Paraguay following a 2-0 loss to Colombia to open their Copa America campaign.

Qatar, meanwhile, overturned a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 against Paraguay before suffering a late 1-0 loss to Colombia on matchday two.

Sanchez added: "Messi can be decisive in any game due to his quality, hundreds of coaches have spent ages trying to stop him but there's no magic formula, it all depends on Leo's feet.

"However much you focus on it it's very difficult to stop him, but we'll try to prevent him from getting involved in the play in the final third of the pitch."

Lionel Messi's presence for Argentina is a privilege not a nuisance, team-mate Giovani Lo Celso insisted ahead of the nation's decisive Copa America clash against Qatar.

Messi and Argentina are in danger of another Copa group-stage elimination as La Albiceleste prepare to face guests Qatar in Porto Alegre on Sunday.

After a 2-0 loss to Colombia and a 1-1 draw against Paraguay from two Group B matches, pressure is on Argentina to avoid a repeat of their 2016 exit, with captain Messi firmly in the spotlight.

Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer – is yet to win a senior trophy with Argentina following back-to-back Copa finals in 2015 and 2016 and a runners-up appearance at the 2014 World Cup.

When asked if Messi's presence is more a nuisance than an opportunity for young players as Argentina eye their first major title since 1993, Lo Celso hauled the 31-year-old superstar.

"I think not, I see the opposite," Lo Celso told reporters. "Having Leo as a partner and playing with him is a privilege. On the contrary, it always solves everything.

"In that sense, of course we try to take advantage of it. So having him in training, like in games is a privilege. These are things that do not happen every day, sharing trainings and matches with him.

"When I'm young, I try to observe, to learn a lot. Because it does not always happen and for me it's a privilege and try to learn as much as I can alongside it."

Argentina are bottom of Group B, below Qatar on goal difference, though a win and finishing third could be enough to tee Lionel Scaloni's side progress.

"From a mental and psychological perspective, we're in good shape because we have the possibility of progressing and if we win we're in the next round," Scaloni said.

Scaloni added: "These young people need support, it's too much pressure on them from life or death. It's a football match, we have to win and that's enough.

"I believe they need this support, we know what is happening, but they are young people who need this support and positive thinking to give the best and to make the climate the best possible."

Scaloni tinkered with his line-up against Paraguay – dropping Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria to the bench – and he could make more changes for the Qatar clash.

Asked if Paulo Dybala could play alongside Messi given their similarities, Scaloni responded: "They can play together, they're two top-level players and they need to work together, which they haven't done much, but with compromise they could do it."

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).

Not even Johan Cruyff or Pep Guardiola could turn things around with the current Argentina team, according to the Argentine Football Association's (AFA) director of national teams Cesar Luis Menotti.

Argentina have been in turmoil over the past 12 months, starting with the thoroughly underwhelming World Cup showing last year when they were eliminated in the last 16.

That cost Jorge Sampaoli his job and his assistant Lionel Scaloni stepped into the role on an interim basis, before being appointed permanently.

Two games into the 2019 Copa America, Argentina have just one point after a defeat to Colombia was followed by a draw with Paraguay, leaving them in danger of early elimination.

Menotti, who was coach when Argentina won their first World Cup in 1978, believes even the best coaches would not be able to fix things.

"Neither Cruyff nor Guardiola today could turn the history of the Argentine national team," he told Diario Popular.

"It reflects the present great complexity that Argentina is living through. Scaloni, of course, has to be evaluated, because we are all evaluated every day.

"It is essential to see the complete development, the complete overview. If we do not do so and we only partially look at it, then we are wrong.

"This selection had almost no rehearsal, it goes out and plays, and of course it is exposed, without a broad plan of work and without a schedule that all the areas of football respect, especially the [club] leaders. The selection will not recover."

Menotti elaborated on his criticism of clubs, claiming the AFA hoped to implement plans that would have seen the best domestic Argentina players spend more time away from their teams, boosting familiarity and cohesion in the national side.

However, Menotti says the "leaders" of Superliga Argentina clubs refused to buy into the AFA's plans, and he pointed the finger at them.

"There was an intention to organise the selection, to train, to get together, to have a group of players training in Argentina," he said.

"But the leaders did not allow it because of different interests, and that greatly weakens any player and any coach.

"Argentina has to improvise and there is a political use of criticism, criticising a selection project that will start now, because when I arrived [at the AFA] there was only the president of the AFA, that's why I am surprised by the opportunist leaders who criticise when the national team loses and they're never worried.

"There are leaders who expect Argentina to be eliminated. It is obvious that it's wrong for the us to rely on them when they did nothing to defend the national team."

Lionel Messi said Argentina were "convinced" they would beat Qatar in their final group game at the Copa America.

Lionel Scaloni's side are facing a group-stage exit after being held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay in Group B on Wednesday.

Messi scored a second-half penalty to cancel out Richard Sanchez's goal in Belo Horizonte, while Argentina needed Franco Armani to save a Derlis Gonzalez spot-kick to preserve their first point of the tournament.

Even a win over Qatar on Sunday may not be enough for Argentina, but Messi said there was plenty of confidence in his team.

"I see the team convinced that we will win the next match," he told reporters.

Messi added: "We have to keep looking for the team and improve."

Argentina struggled throughout the first half and fell behind to Sanchez's 37th-minute goal, before Messi equalised after a penalty was awarded following a VAR review for handball.

Armani stepped up for Argentina in the 63rd minute, though, diving to his left to push away a Gonzalez penalty.

Messi felt his side earned their point, saying: "The first few minutes we managed the ball well.

"After the goal, we messed up a bit. In the second half, we went with everything and we got the draw."

Argentina are bottom of the group on one point, behind Colombia (six), Paraguay two) and Qatar (one).

Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez said his team's late 1-0 Copa America defeat against Colombia left a "bad taste" after the Asian champions threatened to pull off another shock result.

After overturning a two-goal deficit to earn a stunning 2-2 draw with Paraguay in their Group B opener, guests Qatar almost secured another point until Duvan Zapata broke the deadlock in the 86th minute.

Zapata broke Qatar hearts with four minutes remaining in Sao Paulo, where the Asian Cup holders lost their first competitive match since the Gulf Cup of Nations in December 2017.

Speaking to reporters post-match, Sanchez said: "It leaves us with a bad taste because the end was already close.

"Score a goal in final minutes, when the game is tied ... You leave with the bitterness of not being able to score but we also have to value that the team competed with a great rival.

"We played against one of the best teams in the world. Despite the loss, we competed until the final whistle. This will give us strength to keep working and preparing for the future."

James Rodriguez – who is reportedly set to join Napoli from Real Madrid – provided the assist for Zapata's winner against the 2022 World Cup hosts and he added: "We had a very good game. We are on the right track. When you have [Radamel] Falcao and Duvan you always have a goal."

Zapata's goal made it two wins from two games for Colombia, who advanced to the Copa America quarter-finals.

"It's always like this when you have a team with the obligation to win and another which is very organised and that plays very tight on defence, not giving up spaces," Colombia boss Carlos Queiroz, who led Iran during the 2019 Asian Cup, said.

"If you don't score early, you are going to suffer. We won because Colombia played the way I like Colombia to play, fully focused during the 90 minutes."

Duvan Zapata's late header saw Colombia edge Qatar 1-0 to book their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Zapata's 86th-minute goal was enough for Carlos Queiroz's men in the Group B encounter after they had struggled to consistently threaten a well-organised Qatar side.

Radamel Falcao started on the bench and James Rodriguez's impact was limited, at least until the latter set up the winner with a sublime pass.

Zapata met James' wonderful pass and headed into the far corner to move Colombia onto six points, while Qatar were left on one.

Colombia had a sixth-minute header by Yerry Mina correctly ruled out for offside against Roger Martinez.

However, they should have gone ahead in the 13th minute, only for James to steer a header wide after a great Martinez cross from the right.

Colombia controlled possession – they had 68 per cent in the first half – but struggled to penetrate Qatar's defence.

The lively Juan Cuadrado forced a comfortable save from Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb from distance, while Stefan Medina sliced an effort into the side-netting.

Colombia thought they had a penalty for a handball by Abdulaziz Hatem to begin the second half, but the decision was reversed after a VAR review.

Set-pieces continued to look like Colombia's most likely avenue to a goal as Mina headed a corner wide in the 56th minute.

Martinez squandered one of his side's best chances just after the hour-mark, cutting inside after a good pass from James but shooting low and straight at Al Sheeb.

Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was tested twice before Al Sheeb made another fine stop to deny Martinez.

But Queiroz's men would find their goal, James' wonderfully chipped pass met by Zapata for the match-winner before the latter missed a glorious chance to complete his brace.

 

What does it mean? Colombia do enough

Colombia have now made it out of the group stage at the past four editions of the tournament. Despite that, there is plenty of room for improvement going forward.

Colombia need Falcao to fire

After a subdued performance against Argentina, Falcao was left on the bench to start the encounter against Qatar. Colombia struggled to have an impact in the attacking third before Zapata's second goal of the tournament. Falcao's last international goal not from the penalty spot came in October last year and the nation's all-time top scorer must step up.

Qatar continue to show good signs

The guests and 2022 World Cup hosts came from behind to draw with Paraguay in their opener and this time they almost denied Colombia. Qatar were well-organised and looked threatening on the break at times during the second half, almost doing enough to earn another point.

What's next?

The teams complete their group-stage campaigns on Sunday, with Colombia meeting Paraguay and Qatar taking on Argentina.

Yerry Mina explained Colombia's Copa America campaign is being built around a solid defence as he and his team-mates prepare to face Qatar on the back of a 2-0 win over Argentina.

Head coach Carlos Queiroz paired Mina with Davinson Sanchez at the centre of a defence that kept Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero at bay as Colombia opened the competition with an impressive display against one of the tournament favourites.

Colombia triumphed courtesy of goals from second-half substitutes Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata inside the last 20 minutes of Saturday's game, but Mina underlined the importance of their miserly rearguard performance.

"The plan was clear," Mina told reporters. "We tried to play our own game and close the spaces. We were good and that gave us a platform from which to attack.

"We have to think about what is coming. The defence is the most important for us, and keeping a clean sheet. That requires great focus at the back.

"We are aware that we are not yet where we want to be, but we are working step by step."

Queiroz was left with concerns over the fitness of midfielder Wilmar Barrios after he suffered a knee injury during the victory over Argentina.

Jefferson Lerma is on standby to replace Zenit playmaker should he fail to recover in time to face Qatar on Wednesday, but Barrios gave a positive assessment of his own condition as he picked out fellow midfielders Mateus Uribe and Juan Cuadrado as being key to Colombia's success.

"From back to front we were always safe," said Barrios.

"Having players like Mateus and Cuadrado, who track back and contribute goals, makes us well placed not to be beaten out wide."

Recalling his injury, he added: "It was a play in the second half. I recovered the ball almost in our area and my knee went. We did routine exams to be sure that everything is fine and thank God it's nothing, I'm fine."

Qatar staged a late fightback to claim a point from their Copa America opener against Paraguay, scoring twice in nine second-half minutes to clinch a 2-2 draw.

Head coach Felix Sanchez called for improvements from his defence against Colombia, saying: "The team has shown that we can turn games around.

"We had our chances and we took them. For us it is very positive but we cannot forget that we conceded goals that we should have avoided."

He added: "The level shown by Colombia on Saturday [against Argentina] was very high.

"It is a team with many strengths and few weaknesses, we are going to try to compete as well as we can."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colombia – David Ospina

Napoli goalkeeper Ospina had little to do for almost an hour against Argentina but when called upon he did not let Colombia down.

The 30-year-old pulled off crucial saves to deny Leandro Paredes and Nicolas Otamendi that gave Colombia the confidence to go on and win.

Qatar – Abdulaziz Hatem

Almoez Ali took the plaudits after scoring in Qatar's 2-2 draw with Paraguay, but tucked in behind him was Al Gharafa forward Abdulaziz Hatem, who scored two goals in six appearances for Qatar at the AFC Asian Cup and will be out to cause Mina and Davinson Sanchez problems.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Colombia have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 Copa America games (W5 D3 L2), however they have lost two of the three games in which they have conceded during this period (W1).
- Colombia and Qatar will face each other for the first time ever.
- Colombia have lost only three of their last 13 meetings with Asian nations (W8 D2), however those three losses have come in their last five such games (W2).
- After winning none of their first five meetings with CONMEBOL nations (D2 L3), Qatar have won two of their last five games against South American national teams (D1 L2).
- Colombia will be Qatar’s sixth different opponent from CONMEBOL, after Argentina (lost), Brazil (lost), Ecuador (W1 D1 L1), Peru (lost) and Paraguay (W1 D2 L1).
- Queiroz's men scored two goals against Argentina in their first game of the 2019 Copa America, from just two shots on target (8 shots attempted in total).

Eduardo Berizzo believes the Copa America should be exclusive to nations from the Americas after guests Qatar secured a draw against Paraguay on Sunday.

Asian Cup champions Qatar – invited to participate in this year's tournament along with Japan – overturned a two-goal deficit to earn a shock 2-2 draw against Berizzo's Paraguay in their Copa opener.

CONMEBOL has a history of inviting nations to compete, and Asian nation Australia are set to take part in the 2020 edition in Colombia and Argentina.

Reflecting on Paraguay's Group B draw in Rio de Janeiro, head coach Berizzo told reporters: "I think it would make sense to play a Copa America with teams from all the Americas.

"Are you asking me about invited nations, right? About Qatar and Japan? I think we should imagine a whole Copa America, with Central America and North America playing all the same tournament.

"I never saw Europe inviting any South American team to compete.

"Don't take it wrong, maybe it sounds a little acidic today, just after playing against our rival [Qatar]. But I firmly believe Copa America should be played by all the American teams in one tournament – CONCACAF and CONMEBOL together."

Paraguay looked to be on track for a winning start thanks to Oscar Cardozo's fourth-minute penalty before Derlis Gonzalez added an unstoppable second.

Qatar, however, fought back in the second half via Almoez Ali and Juan Rodrigo Rojas – who headed a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal.

"This result disappoints us all, we all want to win, from the fan to the coach," Berizzo said. "We need to mind our rival, our reality, a lot of things that explains a lot about this situation.

"This is a new cycle for the team, there is no way I didn't know Copa America was coming to this date, so I cannot make any excuse of it if we cannot play well, when we play well I will tell you we did it.

"Today we had a hard time finding the ball, especially in the middle of the field, and especially after being 2-0 up. If we would have this done, we should get another result."

Qatar came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Paraguay in their Copa America debut, Rodrigo Rojas heading a Boualem Khoukhi effort into his own goal for a bizarre late equaliser.

Paraguay looked set to claim all three Group B points in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday after taking a fourth-minute lead thanks to Oscar Cardozo's penalty, with Derlis Gonzalez scoring an unstoppable second.

But invited guests Qatar, who won their maiden Asian Cup earlier this year, showed character to fight back and star man Almoez Ali got them back in the game with a curler from outside the box.

And when Khoukhi's shot squeezed through Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, the backtracking Rojas could only nod the ball in before getting tangled in the net and seemingly damaging his shoulder.

Qatar made a chaotic start in their Copa debut, almost conceding in the first minute before Pedro Miguel gave away a penalty for blocking a Bruno Valdez header with his arm.

Paraguay striker Cardozo had not played at the Copa since 2007 but he stepped up to smash the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle to open the scoring.

Qatar should have levelled in the 16th minute but, arriving unmarked at the back post, Hassan Al Haydos somehow failed to convert a low left-wing cross from Abdelkarim Hassan.

Almoez Ali was denied by Roberto Fernandez on the stroke of half-time, with Paraguay seeing a second goal for Cardozo disallowed by VAR within five minutes of the restart.

Paraguay would not be denied in the 56th minute, however, as half-time substitute Gonzalez unleashed a 25-yard rocket that curled away from the desperate dive of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Scoring nine goals at the Asian Cup marked Ali out as a man to watch and he unleashed a terrific hit from 20 yards to make it 2-1 and spark hope of a comeback.

And when Rojas lacked composure in front of his own goal with 13 minutes to play, Qatar had earned a priceless Copa point to justify their inclusion.

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