It wasn’t a display to silence the critics but goals from Lautaro Martínez and Sergio Agüero were enough for Argentina to defeat Qatar and book a place in the Copa América quarter-finals.
Lionel Scaloni rang the changes once more for the must-win Group B clash and while a recall for Renzo Saravia and Juan Foyth replacing Germán Pezzella did little to shore up the creaking defence, the partnership of Lautaro Martínez and Sergio Agüero did at least make Argentina a greater attacking threat.
A bright start saw La Albiceleste lead after only three minutes. Having already gone close Lautaro Martínez intercepted a wayward Bassam Al-Rawi pass and drilled the ball into the bottom corner to ease an early tension.
More goals looked likely and not only at one end of the pitch with Qatar posing their own threat on the counter. Rodrigo de Paul and Lionel Messi were adding options going forward for Lionel Scaloni but a lack of precision in the final third remained and with only Leandro Paredes shielding the Argentina backline there were spaces for Qatar to exploit.
With Argentina needing victory to progress, Bassam Al-Rawi hitting the outside of the post with a free-kick in the closing stages served as a warning to the misfiring Albiceleste that the job was far from complete.
Marcos Acuña’s introduction after half time in place of Giovani Lo Celso settled the midfield somewhat and Sergio Agüero went close on a number of occasions.
The Manchester City striker was having a frustrating afternoon but with ten minutes remaining, substitute Paulo Dybala slipped a pass into Agüero’s feet, the forward turned into the space and with a quick burst of acceleration glided past two defenders to fire a shot inside the far post.
It was Agüero’s 40th goal for Argentina, behind only Gabriel Batistuta and Lionel Messi, and was just reward for a hardworking display.
The result was all that mattered but Lionel Scaloni has plenty to ponder ahead of Friday’s quarter-final against Venezuela at the Maracaná.