The Copa America semi-finals took place this week and we saw some truly incredible goals that booked the goalscorers respective nations a place in the final.
USA 0-4 Argentina
Lionel Messi was too much for the United States to contain, as Argentina beat Jurgen Klinsmann’s team 4-0 to reach the Copa America final. The five-time world player of the year set up Ezequiel Lavezzi’s opening goal in the third minute, then scored on a free kick to break Argentina’s career scoring record and assisted on the final goal Tuesday night. “This was the goal when we got here, to play another final, and we made it,” Messi said. “We’ve been spectacular from day one and we deserved this.”
After Messi doubled the lead in the 32nd minute with his 55th international goal, his tournament-leading fifth, Gonzalo Higuain quickly ended U.S. comeback hopes when he put the rebound of his initial shot past goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 50th minute. Higuain scored from a Messi pass in the 86th minute as well. Argentina will seek a first major title since the 1993 Copa — and a first since Messi’s debut in 2005 — when they play Chile or Colombia on Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey. That’s what we hope and what we want, to finally achieve that,” Messi said. “We deserve it, for all the good work we’ve been doing all these years.” The team wills be missing Lavezzi, who fell backward over an advertising sign board and broke his elbow at about the 60th minute. Lavezzi was able to get up several minutes later and left on a cart.
Hosting a special, expanded 16-nation edition of South America’s championship to celebrate Copa America’s 100th anniversary, the U.S. won a difficult group that included third-ranked Colombia and then beat No. 13 Ecuador in the quarterfinals. But top-ranked Argentina and Messi, who turns 29 Friday and is at the top of his game, outclassed the U.S. from the opening whistle and stunned the sellout crowd of 70,858 at NRG Stadium. Messi has helped Barcelona win eight titles in Spain’s La Liga and four in the Champions League, but his Argentina trophies have been limited to the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship for players under 20 and the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, mostly for players under 23. La Albiceleste lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and to Chile in last year’s Copa America final. The U.S. and Jurgen Klinsmann were trying to rebound after getting eliminated by Jamaica in the semifinals of last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing to Mexico in a playoff for a 2017 Confederations Cup berth and struggling in the semifinal round of 2018 World Cup qualifying.
The Americans finish the tournament Saturday in the third-place match at Glendale, Arizona. Klinsmann inserted midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi into his lineup along with forward Chris Wondolowski because of suspensions assessed to midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya, and forward Bobby Wood. In an effort to spark offense, 17-year-old Christian Pulisic entered at the start of the second half, and Steve Birnbaum came on in the 60th for Beckerman, allowing Geoff Cameron to move up to midfield. Darlington Nagbe replaced Clint Dempsey in the 78th minute.
Argentina went ahead when Lavezzi played a short corner kick to Ever Banega, who passed back to Lavezzi sprinting from the corner diagonally. Lavezzi beat Fabian Johnson to the ball and poked it to Messi about 25 yards out, in the center of the field. As the U.S. defense started to come out, Messi one-timed a flick with his left foot over the back line to Lavezzi, who got to the ball ahead of Kyle Beckerman about seven yards from the goal. He headed the ball over Guzan, who had started to come off his line. Messi doubled the lead after Beckerman slipped and Chris Wondolowski took down the No. 10, earning a yellow card. Klinsmann screamed at Paraguayan referee Eduardo Cardozo as Messi placed the ball about 26 yards out, a few yards closer to the goal than the foul. After the U.S. set up its wall, Messi bent a beautiful curving drive that went just over Guzan’s outstretched left palm and into the upper corner. Messi moved one ahead of Gabriel Batistuta’s career total, according to the Argentine Football Association. However, FIFA records Batistuta’s total as 56, including two goals in an exhibition against Slovakia in June 1995. Higuain scored when he burst past John Brooks for Lavezzi’s pass and one-timed a shot that Guzan stopped with a diving save, then poked the rebound into an open net. Messi nearly added a goal in the 83rd with a 20-yard shot that Guzan palmed to safety.
Colombia 0-2 Chile
Charles Aranguiz and Jose Pedro Fuenzalida scored in the first half to put defending champions Chile into the Copa America Final with a soggy 2-0 victory over Colombia on Wednesday night. Led by Claudio Bravo’s stellar effort in goal, Chile earned a fourth-straight win since a 2-1 loss to top-ranked Argentina in their Group D opener. Next up is a rematch with La Albiceleste in the final Sunday night in New Jersey. Chile also faced Lionel Messi and Argentina in last year’s tournament, with La Roja winning 4-1 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 extra-time draw. Argentina was the last country to repeat as Copa champions in consecutive years, accomplishing the feat in 1946 and 1947.
James Rodriguez and Colombia got off to a slow start and their push for a comeback was hampered by a strong line of thunderstorms that delayed the start of the second half by more than two hours, drenching the playing surface and making it difficult for players to stay on their feet at Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Colombia, who will face the United States in the third-place game on Saturday night in Arizona, also had to play with 10 men after Carlos Sanchez received his second yellow card in the 57th minute. Rodriguez got open for a low, hard shot in the second half that Bravo knocked down before pouncing on the ball before Colombia could get to it. Rodriguez pounded the wet turf in frustration after the play. Chile played without Arturo Vidal after the skilled midfielder was suspended for a second yellow card, and defensive midfielder Marcelo Diaz was sidelined by injury. The defending champions lost another midfielder in the first half when Pedro Pablo Hernandez was unable to continue following a collision near midfield.
The familiar foes arrived at the final four of South America’s championship coming off wildly different performances in the quarterfinals. While Colombia needed penalty kicks to eliminate Peru after a 0-0 tie Friday night, Chile roared into the semifinals with a 7-0 victory over Mexico that included five second-half goals. Each country picked up right where it left off. Colombia coach Jose Pekerman talked Tuesday about his team’s inability to finish, and the same problem showed up again in the country’s first appearance in the Copa semifinals since 2004. Roger Martinez’s drive was stopped by a diving Bravo midway through the first half, and Bravo denied Sanchez with another lunging stop right before halftime. Rodriguez also shot wide on another prime opportunity.
Meanwhile, Chile quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead, taking advantage of a Colombia mistake and making the most of another sharp play from Alexis Sanchez in his 100th appearance for the country. Moments after the mostly Colombia crowd of 55,423 whistled and jeered while Chile passed the ball around their own end, a cross by Fuenzalida was inadvertently headed back into the middle by Colombia midfielder Juan Cuadrado. Aranguiz ran to the middle and volleyed it right by goaltender David Ospina for his first goal of the tournament in the seventh minute.Then Alexis Sanchez cut inside to get open for a shot that bounced off the inside of Ospina’s right post and rolled toward the middle. With Ospina still on the other side after trying for a diving stop, Fuenzalida was all alone for the easy tap-in 10 minutes into the game.
Be sure to comeback for the full match report on the Copa America Final.