Record-breaker Messi fires Ar­gentina into Copa fi­nal

Pakistan Observer - - SPORTS -

HOUS­TON—Lionel Messi be­came Ar­gentina’s all-time record goalscorer as the two-time world cham­pi­ons out­classed the United States 4-0 to reach the Copa Amer­ica Cen­te­nario fi­nal here Tues­day.

Messi curled in a mag­nif­i­cent 32nd-minute free-kick to take his to­tal to 55 goals as the United States’ cam­paign ended with an em­phatic de­feat in front of a 70,858 crowd at Hous­ton’s NRG Sta­dium.

The five-time world player of the year now has five goals in this Copa Amer­ica as he aims to lead Ar­gentina to their first ma­jor ti­tle in 23 years.

The Barcelona su­per­star also cre­ated Ar­gentina’s open­ing goal for Eze­quiel Lavezzi and was in­volved in the build-up for their third, scored by Gon­zalo Higuain in the 50th minute. Messi then laid on the pass for Higuain’s se­cond four min­utes from time.

“We’ve been play­ing well from day one and we de­serve to be in the fi­nal,” said a de­lighted Messi, ded­i­cat­ing his goals tally to the work of his team­mates.

“I’m happy to have the record, and I’m happy to play with the team­mates that have made it pos­si­ble. I owe it to them,” said Messi, who is now one clear of Gabriel Batis­tuta’s mark of 54 goals.

US coach Jur­gen Klins­mann, mean­while, said his team had showed Ar­gentina “too much re­spect” af­ter a dis­play which saw them fin­ish with zero shots on or off tar­get.

“I think in gen­eral we had too much re­spect,” Klins­mann said while hail­ing Ar­gentina as the “num­ber one team in the world.”

“I told the guys there’s noth­ing to be ashamed of. We have to learn and move for­ward,” Klins­man said. “We have to keep our heads up and swal­low it. But Ar­gentina are a spe­cial team.”

Ar­gentina will now face ei­ther Chile or Colom­bia in Sun­day’s fi­nal at East Ruther­ford, New Jersey—their third ma­jor fi­nal in three years af­ter reach­ing the fi­nals of the 2015 Copa Amer­ica and 2014 World Cup.

A dis­as­trous start for the United States saw the hosts fall be­hind af­ter only three min­utes when they gifted pos­ses­sion to Messi on the edge of the area.

The Ar­gentina cap­tain in­stantly spot­ted that Lavezzi was un­marked and lofted a first time pass through to the China-based mid­fielder to head home.—AFP

Ar­gentina’s Lionel Messi scores a free-kick against the US dur­ing their Copa Amer­ica Cen­te­nario semi­fi­nal match in Hous­ton, Texas.

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