Leo Messi celebrated reaching a century of games for Argentina by helping his side top Group B thanks to a largely unimpressive 1-0 victory over Jamaica. A strike from Gonzalo Higuaín in the first half hands ‘Tata’ Martino’s side a quarter-final against either Ecuador, or any one of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela or Colombia, which will be played on Friday 26 June in Viña del Mar at 8.30pm local time. The Argentines, without a Copa América title since 1993, are still unbeaten in the tournament but once again they made hard work of a Jamaica side much inferior on paper. Messi and Javier Mascherano played all 90 minutes for the third consecutive match in Group B but will now have almost a week’s rest along with the rest of the squad ahead of the knock out stages of the competition.
Argentina came into the game with their place in the last eight of the Copa América already assuredand with their opponents already eliminated following Paraguay and Uruguay’s 1-1 draw earlier in Group B. Coach ‘Tata’ Martino, watching the game from the stands due to the his dismissal in his side’s 1-0 over Uruguay, made two changes to his starting 11. At the back Demichelis came in for the suspended Otamendi and up front Higuaín got a start with Agüero ruled out with a back problem.
The 'albiceleste' knew an early goal would settle any nerves and it duly came after just 10 minutes. Leo Messi, on his 100th appearance for the national side, began the move feeding Di María on the left. The Manchester United winger fed the ball into the box and ‘Pipa’ Higuaín turned smartly to guide the ball into the bottom left hand corner. The former Real Madrid and current Napoli striker almost made it 2-0 on 23 minutes, his lob bouncing back off the top of the crossbar. Jamaica’s star performer was keeper Miller, almost single handedly preventing Argentina going in at half time with a more substantial lead. His best save came just three minutes before the break, tipping over Di María’s well struck effort from the edge of the area.
The second half began with Di María rattling the crossbar and with Miller excelling once again in goal for Jamaica, denying Messi a goal on his 100th appearance for his country with a fingertip save on 57 minutes. Jamaica's first shot on target in the game did not come until well after the hour mark, yet they ended the game the stronger of the two sides. Argentina became visibly nervous in the final quarter of an hour as they clung on to their lead under increasing pressure from the Carribeans. Second half substitute Carlos Tevez had a chance to calm the nerves with a sharp opportunity at the near post which he put wide with ten minutes to go. From that moment it was all Jamaica as Winfried Shäfer's team forced a series of corners in the final minutes. Nevertheless, Argentina held on to their lead and move into the knock out stages with their sights firmly set on their first international trophy for 22 years.