AFP/ PTI

Copa America starts anew in quarters, says Argentina's Messi

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Porto Alegre, Jun 24: Argentina will start from afresh in the Copa America after averting disaster with Sunday's 2-0 victory over Qatar that sent them into the knock-out stages, star Lionel Messi said.

Goals from the Barcelona icon's forward partners Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero were enough to propel Argentina from bottom of Group B to second and into a quarter-final meeting with Venezuela on Friday at Rio's Maracana stadium.

"The important thing was to win to keep going in the Copa, to get through the group stage," said Messi, who will turn 32 on Monday.

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

"This victory must give us strength and make us grow as a team."

Argentina's performance was far from pitch-perfect, but they were good enough to beat a limited Qatar side, who gifted them the opening goal after four minutes when Bassam Hicham played a suicidal ball across his own box straight to Martinez.

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.

"But beyond that we played well and went through, which is what matters." Aguero, who was recalled after he was dropped for the 1-1 draw with Paraguay, had a mixed game alongside Messi and Martinez.

He worked hard to create chances for himself but lacked sharpness and precision in his finishing, until his brilliant goal where he burst past two defenders before shooting high into the far corner.

"Luckily I was picked to start and luckily at times the three of us worked well together and we won," he said.

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