Argentina advanced to the Copa America final for the second consecutive year thanks a comfortable 4-0 win over the United States as captain Lionel Messi became the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer on Tuesday.
Runner-up to Chile last year, 14-time South American champion Argentina reached the decider of the centenary tournament on a night that Messi made more history with his record-breaking 55th international goal.
Messi’s inch-perfect free kick in the 32nd minute saw him surpass Gabriel Batistuta in stunning fashion in Houston.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had earlier teed up Ezequiel Lavezzi – who was forced from the field in the second half after tumbling over an advertising board – for the game’s opening goal in the third minute, while in-form striker Gonzalo Higuain completed the rout with a second-half brace at NRG Stadium.
Argentina – seeking to end a 23-year wait for a major trophy – will now face either defending champion Chile or Colombia in the final.
The USA was without three first-team regulars, with Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya suspended for the final-four clash. The trio’s absence meant Graham Zusi, Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman were called upon, while DeAndre Yedlin also returned to the lineup.
Argentina also had one changed forced upon the team as the suspended Nicolas Gaitan was replaced by Lavezzi in the starting XI.