United States 0 Argentina 4: Last year's finalists reach decider as Messi makes history


Argentina advanced to the Copa America final for the second consecutive year thanks a comfortable 4-0 win over hosts the United States as captain Lionel Messi became the nation's all-time leading goalscorer on Tuesday.

Runners-up to Chile last year, 14-time South American champions Argentina reached the decider of the centenary tournament on a night that Messi made more history with his record-breaking 55th international goal.

Messi's inch-perfect free-kick in the 32nd minute saw him surpass Gabriel Batistuta in stunning fashion in Houston.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner had earlier teed up Ezequiel Lavezzi - who was forced from the field in the second half after tumbling over an advertising board - for the game's opening goal in the third minute, while in-form striker Gonzalo Higuain completed the rout with a second-half brace at NRG Stadium.

Argentina - seeking to end a 23-year wait for a major trophy - will now face either defending champions Chile or Colombia in the final.

USA were without three of their first-team regulars, with Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya suspended for the final-four clash. The trio's absence meant Graham Zusi, Chris Wondolowski and DeAndre Yedlin were called upon.

Argentina also had one changed forced upon them as the suspended Nicolas Gaitan was replaced by Lavezzi in the starting XI.

There were questions asked of Argentina coach Gerardo Martino and his decision to hand Lavezzi just his second start of the tournament, but the China-based forward repaid the faith just three minutes into the match.

Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. insisted they would not give Messi any special attention, something they quickly had to revise as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner played a delightful lofted throughball to Lavezzi, who guided his effort over the onrushing Brad Guzan as USA attempted to clear their lines.

Messi could not be stopped from that point, dictating the play and helping Argentina dominate possession as USA were forced to watch on in awe, ending the first half without a shot.

After John Brooks made a last-ditch tackle to deny Gonzalo Higuain, Messi stepped up and executed an inch-perfect free-kick just past the half-hour mark.

In another moment of brilliance as fans watched on in anticipation, Messi curled a set-piece across Guzan and in under the crossbar for his fifth goal of the tournament.

USA made a change at the break, with teenage sensation Christian Pulisic coming on in place of Wondolowski.

But Argentina continued where they left off in the second half, Higuain springing the offside trap and tucking home his own rebound having initially been denied by Guzan.

Despite the best efforts of captain Michael Bradley to inspire USA, the CONCACAF nation barely threatened as Argentina cruised.

Argentina experienced a heart-in-mouth moment after Lavezzi tumbled over an advertising board following the hour, with medics immediately signalling for an ambulance having appeared to land on his neck. The Heibei China Fortune star, however, was able to get up on his feet, but was left clutching his arm.

Business went on as usual for Argentina and Higuain completed the scoring four minutes from time for his 31st international goal, after Messi squared the ball across the six-yard box for a simple tap-in.