Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina side are through to the 2021 Copa América final following a dramatic semifinal clash at an empty Estadio Nacional de Brasilia which saw La Albiceleste beat Colombia 3-2 on penalties..
The game opened in upbeat fashion as Captain Lionel Messi set up the ball neatly for Lautaro Martinez in the 7th minute, who then blasted it low into the right side of the net, away from the gloves of David Ospina.
Messi’s assist made it his ninth involvement out of Argentina’s 11 goals in the competition thus far.
Both sides tried to find a break but the game remained tied at 1-0 at halftime.
Argentina’s defensive structure soon began to lose shape as the second-half kicked off. A pass from Edwin Cardona in the 61st minute, along with an ill-timed run by Emiliano Martínez, exposed a hole in the Argentine defense and allowed Luis Diaz to score the equaliser for Colombia.
Angel Di Maria’s introduction to the game injected some life into Argentina as the left-footed PSG forward ran amok on the right flank.
One of Di Maria’s presses almost put Argentina ahead save for Lautaro Martinez’s failure to beat a net that was without its goalkeeper.
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A pass from Di Maria also allowed Messi to fire a shot from a tight angle that could only hit the woodwork.
Argentina were the better side in the closing parts of the game but were unable to find a winner until the blast of the final whistle, which was immediately followed by a nervy penalty shootout where Emiliano Martínez proved to be the hero of the game, saving three penalties in total.
Juan Cuadrado scored the first penalty for Colombia with a powerful strike. Messi stepped up for Argentina and sent David Ospina the wrong way with a top-corner finish.
Colombia’s Davinson Sanchez had his penalty saved by Emiliano Martínez, who had uttered words to the set-piece taker, presumably as an unnerving psychological tactic. The Argentine goalkeeper can be seen repeating the same verbal tactic on Yerry Mina who too had his penalty saved.
The goalkeeper repeated the gimmick against Miguel Borja but the Colombian forward was impervious to the distraction and scored Colombia’s second goal of the shootout.
Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul sent the ball flying to the empty stands on Argentina’s third attempt. However, goals from Argentina’s Leandro Daniel Paredes and Lautaro Martinez and a miss from Colombia’s Edwin Cardona — again saved by Emiliano Martínez — saw La Albiceleste win the game and launch into a wild celebration.
Messi had this to say in the post-match interview: “At times it became difficult, but we have Emi (Martinez) who is a phenomenon. We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play every game and now we’re going through the final.”
Argentina will play Brazil in the final at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday.
Brazil beat a tough Peru 1-0 in their semifinal match. They were also the team that knocked out Argentina in the semifinal stage in the 2019 Copa América.
In the final, Messi will face his former FC Barcelona teammate, Neymar, and Argentina will try to win their 15th Copa América title, a feat that they’d last managed in 1993.
Messi, who is in strong contention for his seventh Balon d’Or this year, will be eyeing his first major international trophy, an accomplishment that has eluded the Argentine skipper despite having played in four finals, including a World Cup final in 2014.
Likewise, title-holders Brazil will attempt to get a hold of their 10th Copa América title.
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