Copa America: Messi Inspires As Argentina Secures Semi-Final Spot

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Lionel Messi scored a free kick and provided two assists as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 to set themselves up for a Copa America semi-final clash against Colombia.

Argentina were unbeaten in 17 games coming into the game and were looking to make it 18. Underdogs Ecuador came into the match without a win in its last six games. Messi missed the best chance of the game when he was through on goal after beating the Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez, but saw his shot hit the post.

Five minutes before halftime, the Argentine talisman then set up Rodrigo De Paul after goalkeeper Galindez was left stranded after making a tackle outside the box. De Paul fired the ball into the net for his first international goal in 25 appearances.

Argentine midfielder Rodrigo De Paul (7) scores goal against Ecuador during Copa America match

After the break, Argentina continued to create more chances as they were looking to extend the lead against a tough Ecuador side.

In the 84th minute, Messi setup Lautaro Martinez to extend the lead for the Argentina after some horrendous defending by Ecuador. Angel Di Maria took the ball off an Ecuadorian defender and found Messi who slid the ball into the path of Martinez. The striker calmly placed the ball into the net, making the scoreline 2-0.

Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez (22) scores against Ecuador

In the closing minutes, Ecuador’s Piero Hincapie fouled Di Maria who was through on goal just outside the penalty box. The defender was shown a red card after a VAR check and a free-kick was awarded.

Messi stepped up and beautifully curled the ball into the net in stoppage time to make it 3-0.

Lionel Messi scores free-kick against Ecuador

The match finished 3-0 to Argentina, setting up a mouth-watering clash against Colombia who overcame Uruguay on penalties.

Messi’s free-kick goal was his 76th goal for Argentina, taking him to within one of Pele’s South American record.

“I’ve always said that individual prizes are secondary, we’re here for something else,” Messi said after the match. “We have an objective and we’re focused on that.”

“It was a hard match, we know how difficult an opponent they can be. The important thing is we’ve taken another step forward.”

Brazil will play Peru in the first semi-final 24 hours before Argentina plays Colombia.

Copa America results

Brazil 1-0 Chile

Uruguay 0-0 Colombia (2-4 on Penalties)

Argentina 3-0 Ecuador

Chidi Nwoke/Reuters.

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