Magical Messi sends Argentina into Copa America semis with staggering solo show

Lionel Messi scored one goal and created two others as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 in Goiania on Saturday to reach the Copa America semi-finals. In Tuesday’s last four match, the 14-time winners will play Colombia, who beat Uruguay on penalties earlier in the day. Messi teed up goals for Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez before firing home an injury time free-kick to cap a stunning individual performance.

In five games this tournament, Messi has four goals and four assists – in both categories, posting twice as many as any other player in the competition. Messi has contributed directly to eight of Argentina’s 10 goals, and was involved in the build-up in the other two goals. Messi’s goal was his 76th for his country, which puts him just one behind Brazil legend Pele as topscorers from South America. It was also his 58th direct free-kick goal for club and country, putting him one above great rival Ronaldo.

“It was a very difficult match, we knew about the difficulty of the opponent. It was hard fought until we got the goal, then it got more tangled. The important thing is that we took one more step,” Messi said. Messi was also awarded his fourth man-of-the-match award in his five games. He said: “I always said: The individual awards are secondary, we are here for something else. I want to congratulate the group for the work they have been doing, it has been several days that we are away from our families.