Lionel Messi and Argentina are through to the Copa América quarterfinals as Group A winners thanks to an easy 3-0 victory over Bolivia in the group stage finale in cold, rainy Cuiabá. Messi set the all-time appearance record with his 148th cap for his country, and he marked the occasion in style with a vintage Messi performance.
Argentina dominated from the get-go, and it took just six minutes to break down the Bolivian defense thanks to a gorgeous assist from Messi and a great finish by Papu Gómez.
The Albiceleste continued to dominate possession and create chances against the worst team in the tournament, and Gómez was brought down by Ibáñez inside the box to win a penalty. Messi stepped up to the spot and scored with ease to make it 2-0.
Then came the goal of the match as Sergio Agüero played a lovely pass over the top to put Messi one-on-one with the keeper, and the captain scored a gorgeous chip from outside the box for the third.
With the win and first place in the bag, Argentina didn’t get out of first gear in a second half that was still fun to watch as Bolivia tried to attack and score a consolation goal, which they got when Justiniano’s cross found Saavedra for a nice finish.
Argentina responded immediately with a goal for Lautaro Martínez to make it 4-1, and the Albiceleste had chances to make it five or six but the Bolivian defense managed to make some important blocks.
The final whistle came and Argentina are through with 10 points from four games, an impressive tally in what looked like a tricky group when the tournament began. Ecuador is up next in the quarterfinals next Saturday, and Argentina will be big favorites to advance to the semis.
And Messi looks in the mood.
Speaking of the quarterfinals, these are the four matchups to look forward to this weekend, with a couple of really interesting knockout games that will send two big teams home early:
Argentina vs Ecuador
Uruguay vs Colombia
Brazil vs Chile
Peru vs Paraguay
The fun times start on Friday!