Argentina book Copa America semi-final with Brazil after win over Venezuela
Copa America 2019, Quarter-final, Maracana – Venezuela 0 Argentina 2 (Martinez 10', Lo Celso 74')
Argentina set up a blockbuster semi final clash against Brazil at the Copa America by seeing off Venezuela with a 2-0 victory at the Maracana.
Lionel Scaloni’s side came into this quarter final tie in patchy form having lost to Colombia, drawn against Paraguay and beaten only Qatar in their opening three group games. This was a more controlled performance from La Albiceleste, though.
Giovani Lo CelsoGetty Images
Lautaro Martinez gave Argentina the lead after just 10 minutes, smartly flicking home a back heel finish following a corner by Lionel Messi. This justified the Racing striker’s selection ahead of the likes of Paulo Dybala, Angel di Maria and Giovani Lo Celso.
Lo Celso came off the bench in the second half and was gifted the goal to put real daylight between the two teams, tucking home from close range after a shot from Sergio Aguero was spilled by goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
TALKING POINT - Lionel Messi’s no-show proved a test of Argentina’s credentials
Argentina might have found some semblance of form for this match, but there will be a familiar talking point over the coming days - Messi. The great man was almost anonymous over the 90 minutes with his teammates frequently looking for Martinez ahead of him. This, however, provided a test of Argentina’s depth and competition credentials and they passed that test ahead of the meeting with Brazil.
Lionel Messi in action against VenezuelaGetty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Lautaro Martinez (Argentina)
Martinez’s star continues to rise at this Copa America. He has nailed down a place over more illustrious squad members and is becoming something of a match-winner for Argentina. What’s more, his movement and direct running is exactly what his team often needs to create space in the final third of the pitch. This was another demonstration of what he brings to the table.
Argentina - Armani 6, Foyth 8, Pezzella 6, Otamendi 6, Tagliafico 6, Acuna 7, Paredes 5, De Paul 6, Messi 5, Martinez 8, Aguero 5. Subs - Dybala, Lo Celso 6, Di Maria 6.
Lautaro Martinez celebrates his opening strikeGetty Images
10’ GOAL! Venezuela 0-1 Argentina: Argentina have the lead early on in this quarter final! Messi played the corner kick into the box, the shot came in from the edge of the box and Martinez was on hand to flick home a clever finish! That goal has been coming for La Albiceleste!
49’ Nearly a second for Martinez! This is why he is in the Argentina team ahead of Dybala! He got in behind the Venezuelan backline, but sent his shot wide of the target (via the outside of the post) when he perhaps should have done better.
73’ What a chance! Hernandez must have thought he was about to equalise! He was played in behind down the right side, but his shot is from a tight angle and Armani makes the impressive reflex save! That might have been the moment.
75’ GOAL! Venezuela 0-2 Argentina: Oh dear! Farinez has gifted a second goal to Argentina and that should be enough to ensure their passage through to the semi finals! Aguero's shot from distance was palmed into the path of Lo Celso who had the simple task of finishing from close range.
Angel Di Maria won his 100th cap against Venezuela becoming only the sixth Argentina player after after Javier Mascherano (147), Javier Zanetti (142), Lionel Messi (134), Roberto Ayala (115) and Diego Simeone (105) to reach that milestone.
There were five yellow cards in the first half of this match, more than in any other half of football at the last Copa America tournaments.