By ERIC NÚÑEZ
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Lionel Messi avoided another disappointment with the national team as Argentina defeated Qatar 2-0 Sunday to escape elimination in the group stage of the Copa America.
Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero scored a goal in each half as Argentina defeated guest team Qatar 2-0 to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the South American competition.
Argentina finished second in Group B behind Colombia, which did Argentina a huge favor by beating Paraguay 1-0 in the other group match on Sunday.
The top two teams in each of the three groups advance, along with the two best third-place finishers. Paraguay will advance only if Japan and Ecuador draw on Monday in Group C.
Argentina, which hasn't been eliminated in the first round of the South American tournament since 1983, will face Venezuela in the quarterfinals at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
It was Argentina's first win at this year's Copa America after opening with a 2-0 loss to Colombia and a 1-1 draw with Paraguay.
Martinez opened the scoring four minutes into the match after a mistake by Qatari defender Bassam Al Rawi while trying to pass to a teammate in front of his area. Martinez intercepted the pass and found the net to open the scoring at the Arena Gremio.
Asian champion Qatar, making its first appearance as a guest in the Copa America, stayed in contention during most of the match but Aguero sealed Argentina's win with a run past a couple of defenders in the 82nd.
Argentina's last title with the senior team was the 1993 Copa America. It has come close to victory in recent years with Messi, losing in the final in the World Cup in 2014 and in the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.