Argentina faced hosts USA in the semi final of the Copa America on Tuesday. The display Messi and co put on for the 70,000 spectators that filled the NRG stadium was spellbinding to say the very least. At the risk of romanticizing Messi’s performance prematurely; he is simply the best player to ever have kicked a football. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men came into the match with a lot of confidence having fought hard to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament they are hosting. Although USA were weary of Argentina, who had been obliterating all competition that had stood in their way, they could not prepare for what was about to happen. Few teams could.
Argentina looked like a force to be reckoned with right off the bat. After winning a corner in the 3rd minute of the game, taken short, the ball found its way to the feet of Lionel Messi. The Argentina captain had a quick look up and chipped the entirety of USA’s backline to find Lavezzi, who converted one of the most spectacular assists in the history of the tournament with his head. After being instrumental in giving his side the lead against the hosts, Messi was just getting warmed up.
In the 14th minute, the Barcelona man took on 3 USA defenders to shoot right at Guzan who saved it comfortably but this served as a warning shot for the storm to come. USA had much defending to do as Argentina was attacking with intent and eventually gave away a foul outside the box. As Messi stood over the ball, everyone that was watching the game, expected him to try and go over the wall and into the left-hand side of the goal as Guzan covered the right. But when the genius struck, he completely defied logic and curled the ball away from the wall to the right-hand side of the goal and squeezed it into the top corner.
The wall might as well have not been in place as one of the best freekicks in modern day football soared on to find its target. No one could do anything about it. It was simply Messi. This goal made him the highest goalscorer for Argentina and facilitated the destruction of yet another record for the 28-year-old.
Man in form, Gonzalo Higuain made it 3-0 in the 49th minute as he forced the ball into the net after an initial Guzan save. Argentina were definitely dreaming of the final by now and the hosts lacked the killer instinct that would allow them to level with their formidable opponents.
After some threatening chances Messi created, one fell to Lamela in the 77th minute but the Tottenham winger could not find the net and add another assist to his captain’s tally. Guzan saved another low shot in the 82nd minute to deny Messi his second goal of the game but just 3 minutes later the 5-time world player of the year ran onto a defensive mistake and found himself clear on goal.
This is when he truly displayed his class. Instead of taking a shot on goal himself, he cut back the ball to Higuain so as to seal the 4th goal for his team. A true captain, he lay waste to Pele and Maradona’s claims on him lacking leadership qualities. He finished the game having directly been involved in 3 of the 4 goals and creating a handful more chances.
Argentina’s final opponent is yet to be decided as Chile take on Columbia but whoever it may be should be afraid of the talismanic Messi as he is deciding games at will.