HOUSTON — Thanks to an inspired Lionel Messi, Argentina defeated a depleted U.S team 4-0 to reach their third final in three years and now await the winner of the Chile-Colombia match in Chicago to learn who their opponent for the Copa America Centenario Final will be.
Here are the key points to the Argentina victory:
Changes in the line-up
Due to the suspension of midfielders, Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and forward Bobby Wood, the U.S. was forced to make four substitutions to the team that defeated Ecuador in the quarter finals and also forced manager Jurgen Klinsmann to play with a 4-4-1-1 formation instead of the 4-3-3.
The changes brought in Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi and Chris Wondolowski who didn’t have an impact on the team.
Paying the Price
The biggest point of criticism for the U.S. is that from the start of the game they conceded the possession of the ball and seemed to have come out with the sole purpose to hold Argentina for 90 minutes and the plan immediately back fired.
Less than three minutes into the game off a corner, Lionel Messi served a great lobbed pass into the left of the box where Ezequiel Lavezzi appeared unmarked to head the ball into the back of the net to after Brad Guzan was unable to get out to cut the pass.
From very early in the game Argentina was in full control of the game and was never put under any real pressure throughout the game.
The first time that the U.S. managed to get inside the 18-yard box of the opposition was until the 35th minute of the game when they were already down 2-0, and the first decent cross into the box was from DeAndre Yedlin looking for Wondolowski but was cleared by Nicolas Otamendi
To make matters worse for the U.S. was that once again early in the half Argentina managed to score the third goal through Gonzalo Higuain to finish all hopes of a miraculous comeback.
The final nail in the coffin came in the 86th minute when Steve Birnbaum lost possession of the ball in his own half, which Messi took into the box and set up Gonzalo Higuain to simply tap the ball into the net.
Messi once again has a great performance as he netted a goal and contributed with two assists to lead his team to the final.
With his 32th minute cracking free kick strike to the upper corner of the goal Messi reached scored his 55th goal for the national team to make him the most prolific goal scorer in Argentina’s history after surpassing the 54-goal record from Gabriel Batistuta.
To add to his impressive number of accolades, Messi also with his two assists became the player with the most assists in the 100-year history of Copa America.
With the win, Argentina has reached their third straight final in the same number of years after falling to Germany in extra time in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, then fell to Chile in penalties at last year’s Copa America Final.
On June 26 we’ll find out if third time is the charm for Argentina as they await for their rival from the clash between the defending champion Chile and Colombia in Chicago.