Goal machine Messi leads Argentina to Copa final

Wed Jun 22, 2016 12:33am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored his 55th international goal to become his country's all-time leading scorer as Argentina thrashed hosts the United States 4-0 to ease into the final of the Centenary Copa America on Tuesday.

Many of those in the 70,858 crowd in Houston had come to witness the Barcelona star etch his name in the history books and he did not disappoint, curling a sensational free kick past Brad Guzan after 32 minutes to put Argentina 2-0 ahead.

Messi had been chopped down by Chris Wondolowski 25 yards from goal as he burst forward and the ensuing strike moved him clear of previous record holder Gabriel Batistuta's 54 goal tally.

"I am happy to have surpassed Batistuta's record and I want to thank my team mates, it's theirs as well," Messi, who turns 29 on Friday, told reporters.

The win, meanwhile, advanced Argentina into Sunday's final against either Colombia or reigning champions Chile, who meet in Chicago on Wednesday.

"We needed to get back in a final but we can never get ahead of ourselves," Argentine coach Gerardo Martino assed. "We've always taken it one game at a time."

"We are pleased with our general production (so far)."

Martino started Ezequiel Lavezzi up front in place of the injured Angel Di Maria and it took the China-based winger just three minutes to make his mark when he got on the end of a Messi chip to head over a stranded Guzan.

  Continued...

 
Jun 21, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) kicks the ball as United States defender Fabian Johnson (23) defends during the first half in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer tournament at NRG Stadium.   Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports