Ecuador drew against Brazil and earned a bit of confidence for the quarterfinal clash against the heavyweights of world football – Argentina, but like the England-Ukraine encounter, it was one-way traffic and Ecuador were gunned down by Argentina.

Scaloni had made seven changes that beat Bolivia last time. Martinez returned between the posts after missing the victory to displace Armani. Molina returned to the backline in place of Montiel. Paredes, Lo Celso and De Paul get the nod to start in the middle of the park. Martinez and Gonzalez join Messi in attack as the Albiceleste opt to leave Aguero and Di Maria on the sidelines for the start of the game.

Ecuador have made two changes to their side from their draw against Brazil last time out. Mena got the start in the middle of the park after his goal against the Selecao, while Gruezo also comes into the fold in the final third in place of Eduar Preciado.

Lionel Messi missed a golden chance in the first half but set up Rodrigo De Paul five minutes before half-time and then did the same for Lautaro Martinez five minutes from the end to give Argentina a deserved victory.

The Barcelona player then got his second free-kick off the tournament in stoppage time to round out a scoreline that was more convincing than the performance.

It was his 76th goal for Argentina, taking him to within one of Pele’s South American records.

Argentina were unbeaten in 17 games coming into the game and they should have put the result beyond doubt earlier than they did.

Martinez and German Pezzella both came close in the opening 20 minutes and Hernan Galindez made one superb double save from Nicolas Gonzalez with the score at 1-0.

More surprisingly, Messi missed the best chance of the game when he was through on the keeper but saw his shot come back off the post.

However, the diminutive striker made up for it five minutes before half-time when, with the Ecuadoran goalkeeper stranded after making a tackle outside the box, he fed De Paul, who stroked the ball into the net for his first international goal in 25 appearances.

Messi then set up Martinez to finish clinically five minutes from the end, before stepping up himself to curl home a free kick in stoppage time, after Piero Hincapie hauled down Angel Di Maria and was shown a red card.

“I always say it: individual [moments] are secondary, we are here for something else,” Messi said.

“I want to congratulate the group for the work they are doing – we have been away from our families for many days.”

“Messi surprises us day by day, he gets stronger and stronger and infects us all,” said forward Nico Gonzalez.

“He gives us confidence and joy. You have to continue down this path and enjoy it.”

Added Lautaro, “We all follow Messi’s leadership. Today we saw again how he makes a difference and we are all accompanying him.”

Underdogs Ecuador came into the match without a win in their last six games but they had chances to score against a team seeking their first Copa America triumph since 1993.

Enner Valencia in particular will be angry at himself for sending two glancing headers wide from close in during the first 45 minutes.


The result means Argentina will face Colombia, who overcame Uruguay on penalties earlier in the day, in the second Copa America semifinal.

Facebook Comments