Ar­gentina de­feat Ja­maica 1-0 to fin­ish first in Copa Amer­ica group

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY SE­BAS­TIAN PEREZ-FER­REIRO

Ar­gentina de­feated Ja­maica 1-0 in Lionel Messi’s 100th game with the na­tional team on Satur­day, se­cur­ing first place in its Copa Amer­ica group.

Striker Gon­zalo Higuain scored an 11th-minute win­ner for the ti­tle fa­vorites, which had al­ready se­cured a spot in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the South Amer­i­can tour­na­ment.

Ar­gentina reached seven points with the vic­tory in Group B, two points more than Paraguay, which ear­lier in the day drew Uruguay 1-1 in La Ser­ena. De­fend­ing cham­pion Uruguay ended with four points but ad­vanced as one of the best-two third-place fin­ish­ers.

Ja­maica, elim­i­nated be­fore the match be­gan, fin­ished the tour­na­ment with zero points and no goals scored.

By fin­ish­ing first in the group, Ar­gentina will get to play the quar­ter­fi­nals against the sec­ond-best third-place fin­isher in all three groups.

Ar­gentina is try­ing to end a 22-year ti­tle drought. It hasn’t won a sig­nif­i­cant tro­phy since the 1993 Copa Amer­ica in Ecuador, when Messi was only six years old.

“We reached the first goal, which was to ad­vance in first place,” Messi said. “We played a great first half and we could’ve scored more, but in the sec­ond we didn’t have the same in­ten­sity, ev­ery­thing was slower. In the knock­out matches we can’t let that hap­pen.”

Messi put in a lack­lus­ter per­for­mance in his mile­stone match. His most sig­nif­i­cant chance came in the 56th, when his lob shot from the top of the area was barely stopped by the out­stretched arms of Ja­maica goal­keeper Dwayne Miller.

The medi­ocre per­for­mance didn’t af­fect Messi’s pop­u­lar­ity, though. Af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, Ja­maican striker Deshorn Brown was seen tak­ing a selfie with the Barcelona star be­fore the teams left the field.

Ar­gentina out­played Ja­maica from the be­gin­ning at the Sausal­ito Sta­dium. It cre­ated a se­ries of scor­ing chances, es­pe­cially in the first half, but had dif­fi­cul­ties cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the op­por­tu­ni­ties. Twice it hit the cross­bar of goal­keeper Miller.

“The sec­ond half was bor­ing,” Ar­gentina coach Ger­ardo Martino said. “We were in con­trol but didn’t have enough quick­ness to be able to threaten Ja­maica or any other ri­val. If we play like this in fu­ture games we will be in trou­ble.”

Higuain, in his 50th match with the na­tional team, scored the win­ner with a right-footed strike from near the penalty spot, turn­ing in front of three Ja­maican de­fend­ers be­fore send­ing a low shot into the net af­ter a pass by An­gel Di Maria. Ja­maica, fo­cused on the up­com­ing Gold Cup, tried to push for­ward near the end but it wasn’t enough to get the equal­izer.

“In the first half we had too much re­spect for Ar­gentina, the sec­ond-best team in the world,” Ja­maica’s Ger­man coach Win­fried Schafer said. “The play­ers were ner­vous fac­ing Messi, Di Maria, (Javier) Mascher­ano.”

The Ar­gen­tines won the pre­vi­ous four Copa Amer­i­cas played in Chile, the last in 1991. The World Cup fi­nal­ists hosted the South Amer­i­can tour­na­ment in 2011, but Messi and his team­mates were elim­i­nated by even­tual cham­pion Uruguay Ar­gentina in the quar­ter­fi­nals. lost con­sec­u­tive Copa Amer­ica fi­nals to Brazil in 2004 and 2007.

AP

(Above) Ja­maica’s Ke­mar Lawrence con­trols the ball as he blocks a goal by Ar­gentina dur­ing a Copa Amer­ica Group B soc­cer match at the Sausal­ito Sta­dium in Vina del Mar, Chile, Satur­day, June 20. (Above, left) Sur­rounded by Ja­maican play­ers, Ar­gentina’s Lionel Messi con­trols the ball dur­ing a Copa Amer­ica Group B soc­cer match at the Sausal­ito Sta­dium in Vina del Mar, Satur­day.

AP

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