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Sunday , September 19 2021

Argentina keep Messi dream of winning first major int’l title alive

Colombia edge Uruguay on penalties for semifinals spot

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 4, (AP): Lionel Messi scored his 76th international goal and is now only one shy of Pele for the South American record as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 on Saturday to progress to the semifinals of the Copa America. Messi scored from a late freekick and earlier laid on two assists as Argentina eventually subdued Ecuador and kept the superstar’s dream of winning his first major international title alive. Argentina’s rivals at the Mané Garrincha Stadium on Tuesday will be Colombia, which earlier overcame Uruguay on penalties.

Argentina’s Lautaro Martinez controls the ball during a Copa America quarterfinal soccer match against Ecuador at the Olimpico stadium in Goiania, Brazil. (AP)

The other semifinal will feature defending champions Brazil and Peru. Rodrigo de Paul opened the scoring at the Olimpico Stadium in Goiania in the 39th minute, tapping into an empty goal before Lautaro Martinez added the second in the 84th with a blast from close range. Messi, in his first match since his contract with Barcelona expired, assisted both of them. In the dying moments of the match Messi scored Argentina’s third from a free kick from the edge of the box. It was his fourth goal in the tournament. Heavily favored Argentina wasted several opportunities at 1-0 to cruise to a comfortable victory. Ecuador then hit the post in the second half before Martinez doubled Argentina’s lead. But Messi became more infl uential after 71 minutes when Ángel di Maria stepped in replacing Giovani lo Celso. Ecuador also lost defender Piero Hincapié to a red card near the end of the match after a foul on Di Maria that gave Argentina the free kick scored by Messi. It was his 76th goal in his 149th match for Argentina, one short of Pelé’s record as top goal scorer of a South American national team.

It was also his 58th career goal on a free kick for club and country, moving one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi said being in the semifinals was one of Argentina’s objectives for the tournament. “Now we have to rest and think of Colombia. They defend well, they have quick counters,” the striker said. Asked about his performance, he was brief: “Individual Two penalty shootout saves by goalkeeper David Ospina put Colombia in the semifinals of Copa America after a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in regular time and kept alive their hopes of a first Copa title since 2001. The 4-2 shootout win at the Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia also broke Colombia’s bad luck in recent penalty shootouts and placed 32-yearold Ospina as the team’s player with most international caps, with 112, overtaking retired captain Carlos Valderrama. Ospina made saves from Uruguay’s Jose Maria Gimenez and Matias Viña . Duván Zapata, Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Miguel Borja all scored in the shootout, with veteran strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez converting their spot kicks. Saturday’s victory ended a long trauma for in penalty shootouts for Colombia after painful exits in the 2015 and 2019 Copa America editions against Argentina and Chile, respectively. Colombia were also knocked out on penalties in the round-of-sixteen clash against England in the 2018 World Cup. Uruguay’s Cavani said his team had improved despite the elimination. Colombia put more pressure on Uruguay from the start despite the absences of suspended winger Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and injured midfielder Matheus Uribe. Uruguay’s Muslera made the save of the match in the 71st minute in a header by Zapata. Veteran strikers Suárez and Cavani did not get any clear opportunities as Uruguay’s slow build up play through midfield appeared to suit Colombia’s defense.

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