Sunday 11 December 2016

WATCH: Lionel Messi secures historic record with stunning free-kick in rout of the USA

Published 22/06/2016 | 08:49

Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) stands for the national anthem before the match against the United States in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer tournament at NRG Stadium. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) stands for the national anthem before the match against the United States in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer tournament at NRG Stadium. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Gerardo Martino hailed record-breaker Lionel Messi as Argentina progressed to the Copa America final with a rout of the United States.

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Messi's stunning free-kick in the 4-0 win made him his country's top goalscorer, his 55th goal taking him clear of Gabriel Batistuta's tally.

Messi added two assists in a fine display, setting up Ezequiel Lavezzi's third-minute opener with a sublime dinked pass before unselfishly squaring for Gonzalo Higuain to tap in his second late on as La Albiceleste ripped apart the host nation in Houston.

Argentina's progression takes them to a third major final in as many years and presents another chance to win their first trophy since 1993.

Head coach Martino told the Argentine Football Association's website: "It makes me happy that Messi has surpassed the previous record of Bati, but knowing how he is, he is more happy for the team.

"It is very good that the best player in the world is also the leading scorer of the national team."

Argentina were too good for the United States, who failed to have a shot on target during the game.

Martino was delighted with his side's performance but knows a tougher task awaits in Sunday's final against either reigning champions Chile or Colombia.

"The team was very strong and we are happy with the overall performance. We dominated the game for 90 minutes," Martino said.

"Today we pressed very well and we played very well. We need to do it against better teams, like Chile."

The AFA confirmed Lavezzi, Augusto Fernandez and Marcos Rojo all suffered injuries during the victory.

Lavezzi fractured his left elbow after his tumble over the advertising boards, while Fernandez has a hamstring injury and Rojo a thigh strain.

A statement said Fernandez "may not participate in the next game" but offered no timescale on Lavezzi's and Rojo's recoveries.

The USA had surpassed expectations by reaching the last four, but were blown away in front of a sold-out NRG Stadium.

In his post-match press conference, United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann said: "You saw tonight why they are the number one team in the world. You got to give a huge compliment to Messi, Higuain, (Javier) Mascherano, these guys, it's just top class what they're playing. It's a special team.

"I told the guys there's nothing to be ashamed of. We've got to learn from these games. We're very grateful for this Copa America to be a part of it and we made it to the final four."

Klinsmann did feel his side were "too nice" on the field, though, and pointed to Argentina gaining an advantage for Messi's history-making free-kick.

The former Germany coach added: "We had too much respect. The free-kick from Messi which they pushed five yards up, one step at a time. That's why it was suddenly in shooting distance. If it was five yards back he's not shooting the same ball.

"Those are little things you have to make the argument on the field. We're just too nice in those moments."

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