Lionel Messi provided two assists and scored a free kick as Argentina beat Ecuador, 3-0, on Saturday. They will now face Colombia in the Copa America semi-finals.
Messi missed a great chance in the first period, but Rodrigo De Paul was up five minutes before the break and Lautaro Martinez was up five minutes later. This gave Argentina a well-deserved win.
In stoppage time, the Barcelona player got his second free kick of the tournament to complete a score that was even more convincing than the performance.
He scored his 76th goal in Argentina, bringing him within one of Pele’s South American records.
Messi stated, "I have always maintained that individual prizes are secondary. We're here to win something else." "We have an objective, and we are focused on it."
"It was hard, we know how tough an opponent can be. We've made another step forward, that's the important thing.
Image: Lautaro Martinez scores in Argentina
Argentina was unbeaten in 17 of their previous games going into this game, and they should have won the game earlier.
Martinez and German Pezzella were both close within the first 20 minutes. Hernan Galindez saved Nicolas Gonzalez's life with a brilliant double save.
Surprisingly, Messi missed his best chance in the game, when he was through on goalkeeper, but saw his shot rebound off the post.
The striker made up the difference five minutes before the half-time break when the Ecuadoran goalkeeper was left stranded due to a tackle outside of the box. He fed De Paul who scored the goal for De Paul's first international goal in 25 appearances.
After Piero Hincapie had brought down Angel Di Maria, Messi set up Martinez for clinically to finish five minutes before taking the initiative to kick home a free-kick.
Image: Lautaro Martinez & Lionel Messi celebrating after scoring.
Although Ecuador was the underdog, they were able to score against a Copa America team that is seeking their first Copa America victory since 1993.
Enner Valencia will be particularly furious at himself for sending two glancing heads wide from close in during 45 minutes.
This means that Argentina will now face Colombia. Colombia defeated Uruguay with penalties earlier in the day. Brazil will face Peru in the second semi-final, which took place 24 hours earlier.