Lionel Messi's penalty salvaged a point for Argentina ©Getty Images

Lionel Messi's penalty rescued a point for Argentina as they came from behind to draw 1-1 with Paraguay and keep their Copa América hopes in their own hands.

The two-time world champions suffered a poor start to the tournament in Brazil when they were beaten 2-0 by Colombia in their opening Group B fixture.

It meant much was riding on today's game at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte and at times it looked like disaster would strike again for Messi's men.

Richard Sánchez fired the Paraguayans in front with a strike from inside the area after 37 minutes after latching onto Miguel Almiron's centre.

It could have got even worse for Argentina as the first half drew to a close but keeper Franco Armani luckily got away with just a yellow card after swiping a leg at Derlis Gonzalez when a long way out of his box.

Barcelona striker Messi, considered by many as the best player in the world, drew his country level from the spot after 57 minutes with help from the video assistant referee (VAR).

Nobody appealed for a penalty but VAR spotted a handball by Paraguay's Ivan Peris.

There was more drama when Paraguay were awarded their own penalty after Nicolás Otamendi's rash challenge on Gonzalez.

Duvan Zapata scored a late header as Colombia beat Qatar to go through ©Getty Images
Duvan Zapata scored a late header as Colombia beat Qatar to go through ©Getty Images

Armani made sure his country was happy he was still on the pitch with a low save after Gonzalez stepped up to take it.

The result means Argentina are still bottom of the group on one point but they will qualify for the quarter-finals if they beat guest nation Qatar in their last group outing.

They are hoping to win the tournament for the first time since 1993 after losing in four of the last five finals.

Colombia beat Qatar 1-0 thanks to a late strike at the Estádio do Morumbi in São Paulo to win the group and become the first country to qualify for the next round.

Duvan Zapata headed home a cross from James Rodriguez with four minutes of normal time left to seal the points against the Asian champions.

Qatar battled back from 2-0 down to rescue a 2-2 draw with Paraguay in their first match but are stuck on one point, with Paraguay on two before their last match with the Colombians.

Group C resumes tomorrow with Uruguay taking on invited side Japan and reigning champions Chile meeting Ecuador.

Wins for Uruguay and Chile would send them both through to the next stage.

The three group winners and the best two third-place sides will all go through.