By Paul Nicholson
June 20 – The Copa America Centenario has moved into its semi-final stage with some football style with goals galore in the final two quarter-final matches. After a slow start the oldest international football tournament in the world has burst into life.
Argentina flowed past Venezuela with Lionel Messi scoring a national record-equalling 54th international goal in a 4-1 win over Venezuela.
Chile flooded past a drowning Mexico in a 7-0 win that ended El Tri’s 22 game unbeaten run and left 70,000 Mexican fans reaching for the tequila. Doubtless new federation president Decio de Maria was wishing old president Justino Compean was still in charge.
Messi’s fourth goal of the tournament equalled Gabriel Batistuta’s international record for Argentina and went some way to countering criticism that Messi doesn’t deliver on the biggest world stages.
Argentina are tournament favourites and overwhelming favourites to beat hosts USA in the semi-final, though the US have a stubbornness about their play that could cause a surprise. It will be a test of whether their endeavour can keep the undoubted genius of Argentina bottled.
After the quarter-final Messi commented that he was happy to equal Batitusta’s scoring record but the result was more important. “For us to be back in another semi-final of a big tournament like this one is a great achievement for these players,” said Messi.
Argentina have not won a major tournament for 23 years. They were runners-up in the 2014 World Cup to Germany and lost in the final.
Current champions Chile will face Colombia in the other semi-final after inflicting a record 7-0 international defeat on Mexico. After having opened the tournament with a loss in their group to Argentina, Chile have burst into form, helped in major part by four goals from Eduardo Vargas.
Vargas leads the Golden Boot ranking with six goals and two more games to play. Messi is two goals behind him in second place.
USA play Argentina in Houston tomorrow while Colombia and Chile face off in Chicago in Wedensday. The final takes place June 26 in East Rutherford, Philadelphia.
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