Argentina struggled to qualify for the Copa America final. After a 1-1 draw with Colombia, penalties brought the decision. In the penalty shootout, Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the great hero as he prevented three Colombians from scoring. And in the final battle, the Argentine national team will meet on Saturday in the Maracana in Brazil, the host country in Rio de Janeiro, which was very strong over Peru (1-0) yesterday.
With the empty Mane Garrincha stadium in the Brazilian capital Brasilia as a cool backdrop, the penalty shootout was a dramatic end to a classic and intense Latin American football battle.
Initially, there was not much going on for the favorites Argentina, as Ajax player Nicolas Tagliafico returned to base. Already six minutes later, striker Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring, with a pass from Lionel Messi. With this, the Argentina captain, who is out of transfers after the expiration of his contract with FC Barcelona, once again proved his great value. This was his fifth assist in this tournament and with his four goals he is also the top scorer at the moment. Messi participates in 82 percent of the 11 goals Argentina scored in the Copa America.
But as is often the case in this tournament, Argentina fell behind after a quick lead. Aggressive Columbia was also forced to do this, fearlessly walking behind a goal. It came about half an hour later, when William Barrios slammed the post from distance through the leg of Argentine midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso. Yeri Mina’s header hit the crossbar from the angle that followed.
After the break, the game continued to go up and down. And Colombia got the deserved equalizer after fifteen minutes of stopping, when substitute Edwin Cardona Luis Diaz was sent off. He was too quick for defender Jermaine Pezzella and brilliantly tapped the ball past goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
And the equalizer seemed to be a wake-up call for Argentina, giving them an extra boost. Substitute Angel Di Maria gave Otaro Martinez a chance with a silver moment, but the striker missed an almost empty goal. Di Maria himself was also close to goal, but he shot in the net. In the last stage, Messi made the decision on his boots, but he hit the post from close range.
Messi scored in the penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Martinez playing the title role. He suspended the bets of former Ajax player Davinson Sanchez, Mina and Cardona, thus leading his team to the final on Saturday against arch rival and defending champion Brazil.
No award since 1993
For Argentina, which in 1916 became the first champion of the oldest international championship in the world, it is the fifth final of the South American Championship in the last seven editions (since 2004). Only in 2011 in their country and in 2019 in Brazil the Argentine could not reach the final battle. However, none of those finals were won. In fact, Argentina has not received a major international award since winning the Copa America in 1993, despite a string of finals on its continent and losing the 2014 World Cup final against Germany (1-0) in the Maracana.
Also for Messi, who has already broken all records with Barcelona and won everything that can be won in football, the lack of a major award with the Argentina national team is a disgrace on the illustrious honors list. On Saturdays he and his team can repeat at the Maracana, the temple of football in Rio de Janeiro. A nicer place to fulfill its promise to Argentine football can hardly be imagined, and no prettier poster. Brazil and Argentina are undoubtedly the two strongest countries in South America at the moment, with Neymar and Messi also being the absolute stars of the tournament.
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