Saturday, October 16

Copa América: Messi enlarges Argentina | America’s Soccer Cup 2021

Messi celebrates his goal with Di María, this Saturday against Ecuador.
Messi celebrates his goal with Di María, this Saturday against Ecuador.Other Pens / AP

Irregular in the game, always pending to guard its goal, Argentina knows that it has Leo Messi. And it reaches him. How can it not reach him? If each target of the Albiceleste in the Copa América 2021 bears the seal of Rosario. As main or supporting actor, scorer or assistant, now in its most Maradonian, the 10 is the undisputed leader of the new generation of Lionel Scaloni. He endorsed it again against Ecuador: two assists and a goal from a direct free kick for Argentina to buy its ticket to the semifinal. Now Colombia awaits him for a place in the Maracana final.

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From the outset, Messi sang the anthem with force, as if he wanted only his voice to be heard in the silence of the empty Olympic stadium of Goiana, that is, his football. Sure of his leadership in the dressing room – he never doubted his magnetism on the field – Messi was not even concerned when the post denied him the goal. He waited for his chance as he spread confidence. First to his accomplice De Paul, then to Lautaro Martínez. The 10 is comfortable and Scaloni no longer hides his preferences.

With no margin for error, the coach forgot the rotations and recovered the eleven he had in his head when the Albiceleste had not yet landed in Brazil. Guido Rodríguez, present in Argentina’s three victories in the group stage, gave back the position of 5 to Walls. It was no accident. The PSG pivot, close to Messi on and off the pitch, is the Argentine coach’s fetish player. Paredes finds a break in the vertigo, gets between the center-backs to start the game and has a command voice. He is heard by the interiors, Lo Celso and De Paul, also Leo Messi when he demands him to go back to look for the ball.

This is how Argentina started in Goiana. With Paredes closer to the centrals than De Paul and Lo Celso, asking Messi to play more as a midfielder than as a winger. The ball was from Argentina, however, with the 10 away from Ecuador’s goal, Lo Celso and De Paul disconnected, only some outburst from Lautaro Martínez or an error from Ecuador brought Argentina closer to goal. That happens. After a long ball without bad intention, the Inter striker invented a genius to leave Galíndez on the road although he met Arboleda’s resistance under the posts. It was the stick afterwards that denied Messi the cry when Gruezo had left hand in hand in front of the 10 in front of his goalkeeper.

Argentina, lazy without the ball, woke up when De Paul and Lo Celso were activated. A domino effect in the Albiceleste game that infected 10. And when Messi lights up, Argentina gets bigger. Ecuador, in any case, did not despair. La Tri was as aware of Rosario as of activating Estupiñán and Preciado in the bands. But Valencia was not in his night, without success in either of the two good centers of the laterals. Argentina breathed, which, by then, was already leading the scoreboard after Messi’s clairvoyance found only De Paul to sign the 1-0.

Argentina fell into Argentina’s trap. And as against Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, when he took the lead, he backed off. The repeated attitude of the Albiceleste is surprising, a team that dominates possession better than spaces, especially when Lautaro is turned off. Without the ball, getting closer to Draw Martínez, Argentina lost peace of mind. And Scaloni, then, looked at the bench.

The coach opted for the containment of Guido Rodríguez and the vertigo of Di María. More solidity, more talent in attack. Precisely, through pressure from Di María, Argentina found peace. He recovered the PSG player and looked for Messi. On the 10th, again, he preferred the pass to the goal. Lautaro Martínez thanked him. There was time for something else from Rosario. With the ball asleep a foot from the area, Messi aimed at the goalkeeper’s post to sing his 76th goal with Argentina. He is already one target behind Pelé (South American top scorer in national teams), but most importantly for him, he is one step away from a new final at Maracana.

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