Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Argentina win, Mexico hammered 7-0

Published:Monday | June 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Lionel Messi made his first start of the Copa America tournament and tied a national record with his 54th international goal as Argentina defeated Venezuela 4-1 on Saturday to set up a semi-final match against the United States.

In Saturday's other quarter-final, Eduardo Vargas scored a career-high four goals and Edson Puch added two as Chile, the defending Copa America champions, routed Mexico 7-0.

Messi's goal in the 60th minute gave Argentina a 3-0 lead and equalled the Argentine record for most international goals set by Gabriel Batistuta, according to Argentina's governing body. The Barcelona star also took over the Copa America scoring lead with his fourth goal of the tournament.

Argentina now have two days to rest before playing the US in Houston tomorrow. The Americans have been off since beating Ecuador last Thursday.

With many in the Foxborough, Massachusetts, stadium wearing number 10 from Messi's national team and La Liga jerseys, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year started the game after playing a total of just 74 minutes in the three group-stage matches.

Just eight minutes in, he connected with Gonzalo Higuain on a long entry pass to make it 1-0.

"He knows that he's a game-changing player," Argentina coach Geraldo Martino said. "Everybody's trying to cancel him. But he knows when to play one against one. He knows when to pass the ball to other players."

Higuain scored again in the 28th to make it 2-0. Messi then padded the lead in the 60th after taking a pass from Nicolas Gaitan just outside the six-metre box.




Venezuela finally beat Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the 70th minute when Salomon Rondon headed the ball in, nicking the post on the way. But Erik Lamela scored a minute later to make it 4-1.

Argentina are 6-2-2 against the US, with the teams last playing to a 1-1 draw in a 2011 friendly in New Jersey. The last American win was in a 1999 friendly.

Recovering from a back injury, Messi sat out the group-stage opener this year and played just 29 minutes against Panama - but still managed to record a hat-trick. He came on as a second-half substitute in the group stage finale against Bolivia.

Messi played the entire game on Saturday, despite getting a scare when he was taken down from behind in the first half and was slow to get up.

In Santa Clara, California, thousands of Mexico's frustrated "fanaticos" were already long gone by the time El Tri's worst defeat in a competitive match finally ended, along with its team-record unbeaten streak at 22 matches. It occurred almost a year to the day since Mexico's previous loss, to Ecuador in the Copa group stage.

Vargas scored the first goal of his big night in the 44th, five minutes after an offside call cost him another score, then added goals in the 52nd, 57th and 74th.

"Everyone knows that we are the champions and today we showed it," Vargas said.

Chile matched their scoring total from the entire three-game group stage. La Roja advance to take on Colombia in the semifinals Wednesday in Chicago.