Messi against Paraguay in the semi final / AFA.ORG.AR

It will be Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano against Claudio Bravo on Saturday in the Copa América final following Argentina's comprehensive 6-1 victory over Paraguay. Goals in the first half from Rojo and Pastore set them on the road to victory, although Barrios did pull one back just before half time. Nevertheless, the 'albiceleste' imposed themselves on the game in the second half with two goals from Di Maria and strikes from Agüero and Higuaín to set up a final against hosts Chile. 'Tata' Martino's team will be aiming to claim their first title since 1993, when they last won the Copa América, thanks in part to the contribution of captain Leo Messi. The Barça number 10 did not find the net himself, however, he played a vital part in all of his side's goals. Javier Mascherano also played 76 minutes before being replaced by Fernando Gago and was instrumental in setting up the third for Argentina.

First blood to Argentina

Argentina began the first half like a team in a hurry to end their 22 year trophy drought in international competition. 'Tata' Martino's team did not appear unsettled by the last minute absence of defender Ezequiel Garay due to a stomach bug, Demichelis coming in to replace him. That said, the first clear chance of the game fell to Paraguay captain Roque Santa Cruz, the veteran striker volleying wide unmarked inside the box. Argentina, in contrast were not so generous, defender Rojo sweeping home the opening goal after the Paraguayan defence had failed to clear a Messi free kick in the penalty area.

Paraguay injury problems

Things went from bad to worse for Ramón Díaz's side as they then lost captain Santa Cruz and quarter-final hero Derlis González to injury. In between Pastore added to Paraguay's woes by finishing clinically from the edge of the box following Messi's pinpoint pass. Argentina's opponents were thrown a lifeline just before the break when Lucas Barrios, who had come on to replace Santa Cruz. fired home from outside the box after some sloppy defending from the 'albiceleste'. That goal came two minutes before the break and meant that Paraguay went in at half time 2-1 down to Argentina.

Second half recital from the 'albiceleste'

In the second half 'Tata' Martino's side began to play the kind of football that has been expected of them since the tournament started. Barça duo Messi and Mascherano combined inside their own half to instigate a move that ended with Pastore's perfectly weighted pass for Di Maria to make it 3-1. 'La Pulga' was again involved in the fourth goal for his side - Messi went past two defenders and then found Pastore, the PSG midfielder's shot was save but Di Maria was on hand to score his second of the game. From that moment on it was one-way traffic. Messi was denied by keeper Villar following a typical mazy run involving a nice lay off from Pastore. Agüero added a fifth with ten minutes to go, losing his man in the box to head home Di Maria's cross. Higuaín had been on the field just two minutes when he became the latest recipient of Messi's generosity, the Argentine captain setting up 'Pipa' perfectly for the latter to make it 6-1.


ARGENTINA: Romero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Demichelis, Rojo; Mascherano (Gago - m.76), Biglia, Pastore (Banega - m.72); Messi, Di Maria and Agüero (Higuaín - m.80)

PARAGUAY: Villar, Valdez, Paulo da Silva, Pablo Aguilar, Ívan Pires; Cáceres, Richard Ortiz, Derlis González (Bobadilla - m.26), Benítez; Roque Santa Cruz (Lucas Barrios - m.29) and Nelson Valdez (Óscar Romero - m.55)

Goals: Rojo - (1-0), Pastore - (2-0), Lucas Barrios - (2-1), Di Maria - (3-1), Di Maria - (4-1), Agüero - (5-1) and Higuaín (6-1)

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