Argentina captain Lionel Messi shifts focus to Copa America knockout stage

Argentina captain Lionel Messi said that "another Copa starts now" after his side's 3-0 win over Bolivia ensured first place in Group D of the Copa America Centenario and set up a quarter-final against Venezuela.

Still not yet 100 percent fit following a rib injury, Messi only played the second half of the victory over Bolivia in Seattle, entering at half-time after goals from Erik Lamela, Ezekiel Lavezzi and Victor Cuesta had set up an easy win for Gerardo Martino's side.

However, Martino has confirmed that Messi will return to the starting team for their first knockout game against Venezuela in Foxborough, Massachusetts in three days' time.

The Albiceleste had earlier beaten Chile 2-1 and Panama 5-0 as they eased through the group stages, but their skipper told Mundo Deportivo that the real competition would start now.

"We have ended the group stage as we wanted -- topping the group," Messi said. "We won the three games well. Now another Copa starts. The difficult games are coming now."

Messi was followed closely during his 45 minutes on the pitch by man-marker Diego Bejarano, but the Barcelona star said he had not minded the close attention.

"I swapped jerseys with him," he said. "It is all good on my part. It is strange to be man-marked when we were already through, 3-0 ahead... but he did what they asked him to do."

Venezuela will be big outsiders when facing Argentina on Friday, but Messi said neither he nor his teammates would underestimate their opponents as they aim to win a first senior international trophy since 1993.

"Venezuela are seen as an easy team, but it is not like that," Messi said. "Just the opposite. We know all that we are playing for. This group of players is stronger than ever. We all want to win the Copa America."