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Copa America

Facing world's best Messi a great experience for Qatar, says Sanchez

06:05 EAT 24/06/2019
Messi-cropped
Despite missing out on a quarter-final berth, Qatar boss Felix Sanchez took plenty away from the team's campaign in South America

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."

Qatar will qualify for the 2022 World Cup automatically, as hosts, and this tournament was seen as a way to gain some valuable experience in international competition.

Sanchez was waspish in the build up to the game though, insisting his team was not there to make up the numbers.

“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,” the coach said on Saturday.

“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.”

Qatar were competitive in every game of the group stage, coming from behind to draw with Paraguay in their opener and only narrowly losing to Colombia.

Despite another defeat on Sunday, Qatar backed up the claims of Sanchez on their behalf.