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.
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“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.”