Argentina tops U.S. for place in Copa final

Action from the Copa America Centenario semifinal between the host USA (white jersey) and Argentina on June 21, 2016, in Houston. (Photo: Mexsport) 

HOUSTON – Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals and Argentina earned a 4-0 win over the United States in the Copa America Centenario semifinals on Tuesday in front of 70,858 fans at NRG Stadium.

Man of the match Lionel Messi became the South American power’s all-time leading scorer, netting off a stunning first-half free kick for his 55th international tally, one more than Gabriel Batistuta.

Argentina will face the Colombia-Chile winner in Sunday’s final in East Rutherford, New Jersey, while the U.S. takes on the loser in the match for third place a day earlier in Glendale, Arizona.

The Argentineans fired on all cylinders from the opening whistle and took a 1-0 lead in the third minute. From the left wing near the U.S. end line, Ever Benega played a pass through the upper-left corner of the box for Ezequiel Lavezzi. Defender Fabian Johnson challenged for the ball that rolled to Messi. Unmarked six-yards beyond the penalty area, the Barcelona superstar quickly chipped back into the box for Lavezzi to head over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Messi doubled the advantage in the 32nd minute, curling a left-sided free kick into the upper-right corner of the net with his left foot from 26-yards out, after he was fouled Chris Wondolowski, who made an errant pass to start the sequence.

Five minutes into the second half, Argentina Argentina went up 3-0. Higuain made an untracked run through the middle of the box, controlled a long pass delivered from the left and saw his initial shot saved by Guzan. The 28-year-old Napoli forward corralled the rebound and poked it into an open net with his right foot.

With four minutes left in normal time, Messi capitalized on a U.S. giveaway in its own defensive third, racing into the left side of the box and sliding a pass to the right for Higuain to finish easily from 10-yards out. 

  • BUDWEISER MAN OF THE MATCH: Lionel Messi (Argentina).