Argentina waited until the quarterfinals of Copa America Centenario to give Lionel Messi his first start of the tournament, and the superstar made the most of his opportunity. On Saturday night against Venezuela, Messi recorded a goal and two assists to fuel Argentina to a 4-1 victory and into the semifinals.
Venezuela had given up just one goal in the first three matches of Copa America, but after 28 minutes against Argentina, they conceded two.
From the first whistle, Messi made his presence known with a dangerous early cross that was cut off by Venezuelan keeper Dani Hernandez and then a left-footed shot that went tantalizingly wide—all within three minutes.
In the eighth minute, he unleashed a brilliant ball from 40 yards out right onto the foot of striker Gonzalo Higuain, whose sliding finish put Argentina up 1-0.
Univision Deportes showed the play, which was brilliant from both players involved:
La Albiceleste soon had another reason to cheer when Higuain scored his second goal of the match in the 28th minute thanks to a turnover deep in Venezuelan territory from Figuera.
The midfielder’s errant back pass rolled right into the path of the Argentinian striker, who easily finished past Hernandez,
Argentina was off the hook, and Messi took advantage of Venezuela’s inability to score on their numerous chances with a historic goal in the 60th minute.
After playing a quick one-two with Nicolas Gaitan, Messi was in on Hernandez’s goal, slipping a low shot under the keeper to put Argentina up 3-0