Goiania: Lionel Messi scored one goal and created two more as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 at Goiania yesterday to reach the Copa America semi-finals.
In Tuesday’s last four games, the 14 winners will face Colombia, who beat Uruguay on penalties earlier today.
Messi scored goals for Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez before scoring a free kick in added time to cap off a stunning individual performance.
The score was tough for Ecuador, who finished the game with 10 men after Pedro Hicapie was sacked but were competitive throughout.
Argentina got off to a good start and Martinez almost opened the scoring with a brilliant moment. He passed the ball over goalkeeper Hernan Galindez, then flew towards the goal, only for Robert Arboldea to block the ball on the line.
Moments later Martinez deflected a wide shot and from the resulting corner German Pezzella flew into the side net.
Carlos Gruezo almost offered Argentina a goal when his back pass attempt sent Messi flawless with only Galindez to beat, but the six-time Ballon d’Or winner saw his cannon retreat from the post.
On the other side, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had to be vigilant to parry a superb 20-meter volley from Sebastian Mendez.
Argentina had their own loophole seven minutes into the half when Pervis Estupinan scored from the left and Enner Valencia’s header narrowly escaped Alan Franco’s slip to the far post.
Two minutes later, Argentina was in front, with Messi the architect.
He initially played with Nicolas Gonzalez on goal, but when he was tackled by Galindez Messi reacted the fastest and pushed De Paul to score.
There was still time before the break for Galindez to make an incredible double save from Gonzalez, before Valencia somehow pulled away six yards away.
After the break, Valencia remained Ecuador’s most likely route back into the game and the striker’s near-post shot on the line hit Martinez’s leg before moving behind.
A nasty cross from Estupinan was then almost turned into his own net by Gonzalez.
Messi nearly killed the tie, but his coiled effort sailed just past the post, while Aston goalkeeper Villa Martinez refused substitute Gonzalo Plata to equalize with a block near the post.
Inter Milan striker Martinez finally ended Ecuador’s resistance six minutes from Messi’s pass after Hincapie was taken in by Angel Di Maria.
And Hincapie finished a miserable few minutes as he was sacked in added time after pushing back substitute Di Maria when he was clean with Messi sending the free kick.
Goalkeeper David Ospina was the hero of Colombia’s victory over Uruguay on penalties in Brasilia.
Ospina saved two shots on goal in the shootout the day he won his 112th Colombian selection, surpassing the previous national record he shared with iconic Carlos Valderrama.
He dedicated the victory to his civil war-torn country which was said to have been one of the twin hosts alongside Argentina before South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL moved the tournament to Brazil in due to coronavirus pandemic problems and social unrest in Colombia.
Full of peace
“We just want to give joy to our country, a country that we want to be full of peace, full of people who share and benefit, because we have a beautiful country,” said Ospina, 32.
There was not much to report in a 0-0 draw during settlement 90 minutes before the quarter-final ended directly with a penalty shootout.
Ospina saved from Jose Gimenez and Matias Vina while Colombia scored their four penalties.
It was a huge disappointment for Uruguay’s star forward pair Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who both converted their shots on goal but almost certainly played in their last Copa.
Brazil beat Chile 1-0 on Friday to reach Monday’s semi-final against Peru, who beat Paraguay 4-3 on penalties after an eventful 3-3 draw that saw both teams finish with 10 men.