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Martinez putting World Cup frustration behind him as Copa America Golden Boot beckons

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 Jun 2024

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Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez feels he has put his World Cup struggles firmly behind him by getting amongst the goals at the Copa America.

Martinez scored twice as Argentina saw off Peru 2-0 in their final Group A game on Saturday.

That victory ensured the holders progressed to the quarter-finals as group winners, as expected, and they will now face either Venezuela, Mexico or Ecuador.

Inter forward Martinez, who was the leading scorer in Serie A in 2023-24, finished the group stage as not only the tournament’s leading scorer, but also the Argentina player with the most shots (nine), despite not starting two out of the three games.

Yet standing in for Lionel Messi, who was rested, Martinez thrived, and he believes he has cast aside his woes from the Qatar World Cup, where he failed to get on the scoresheet.

“I’m happy, because I was able to score in the three group-stage games and because I was able to help the team, which is what counts,” the 26-year-old told TyC Sports.

“I’m fine, as I said when the match with Chile ended, I had a great season at my club and I felt good.

“I felt ready to get rid of the thorn from the World Cup, that was important for me, to prepare well for the Copa America, which I did and I’m showing it. Let’s keep working.”

Martinez is two goals ahead of any other player in the Copa America Golden Boot race as it stands.

In fact, since his debut in the Copa America in 2019, Martinez is the tournament’s top scorer with nine goals (two in 2019, three in 2021, four in 2024), four more than Messi and Luis Diaz (five each).

Meanwhile, Argentina assistant Walter Samuel, who was filling in for the suspended Lionel Scaloni, suggested that Messi is on course to be fit for the quarter-finals.

“He was in the locker room, we noticed [he was] better,” said Samuel.

“The situation is improving but it’s a few days and the situation is premature to talk about. We’ll talk about it on a day-to-day basis with him, and talk to the doctors.”

Martinez was more positive, saying: “Leo is fine, we hope he can be in the next game. I dedicated the goal to him because I know what Leo means to us.”

Angel Di Maria added: “Leo is fine, he’s recovering, we hope he will be ready for the next game. Today’s victory is for him.”

Argentina have won their first three matches of a Copa America on 18 occasions. However, this is only the third time they have done so in their last 12 participations (along with 2007 and 2016).

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