Argentina pipped Ecuador 3-0 on Sunday in the quarter-final to enter the semis of the Copa America 2021 with goals from Rodrigo De Paul, Lautaro Martinez and Lionel Messi sealing the result.
De Paul opened the scoring in closing stages of the first half, a lead that was doubled in the 84th minute with Martinez netting. With Argentina already ahead, Messi added to Ecuador’s woes by scoring in extra time.
“I’ve always said that individual prizes are secondary, we’re here for something else,” Messi said. “We have an objective and we’re focused on that. It was a hard match, we know how difficult an opponent they can be. The important thing is we’ve taken another step forward.”
Leading up to the match, all eyes were on Messi, who needed two goals to equal Pele’s record for most goals in international football by a South American player and his 76th goal for Argentina now brings him one shy. Unbeaten in the previous 17 matches, Argentina could have secured the match by a much larger margin.
Martinez and German Pezzella came perilously close to scoring inside the first 20 minutes of the game but Hernan Galindez made an excellent save to deny Argentina an early lead. Messi himself had a clear chance at goal but his shot hit the woodwork.
The scoring opened five minutes before the half-time as de Paul scored his first goal in 25 appearance, as he took advantage of a stranded goalkeeper who had made a tackle. Messi set up the second goal, which Martinez shaped up five minutes before the stoppage time.
With the result approaching its conclusion, Messi hit the bulls eye with a free kick to inflict more misery on the opposition, To make matters worse for Ecuador, Piero Hincapie hauled down Angel Di Maria and was shown a red card.