Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Lionel Messi's Copa America semi-final record for Argentina should have Brazil fearful

The striker has had little trouble making it into the tournament final in previous years

There are two ways of looking at Lionel Messi's lack of international trophies, and in particular the Copa America.

His extraordinary career has been somewhat tarnished by his inability to hit top gear when pulling on national colours and succeed like Diego Maradona did decades ago.

This sense of failure has followed Messi around for years and been exacerbated by Cristiano Ronaldo's European Championship triumph with Portugal in 2016.

But the flip side is that, certainly in the Copa America, Messi has continued to fire Argentina to the final, and has shown he can handle the pressure of a semi-final.

Three times he has guided Argentina through to the title match - only to stumble at the last hurdle each time.

But at least he and his teammates go into Tuesday's semi against Brazil in Belo Horizonte knowing that the Barcelona star has been here before and brought his A-game when there is a place in the final the reward.

Here's a look back at each of Messi's Copa America semi-finals:

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Lionel Messi manages to steal the ball between Mexico's players Andres Guardado and Fausto Pinto. AFP
Lionel Messi manages to steal the ball between Mexico's players Andres Guardado and Fausto Pinto. AFP

Argentina 3 Mexico 0, Copa America 2007

Gabriel Heinze had put Argentina in the lead before Messi produced a moment in the 61st minute that coach Alfio Basile said "only a genius could do".

Messi received a pass on the right side of the penalty area, took a touch to steady himself and then floated the most sublime chip over the keeper with his left foot.

Juan Roman Riquelme added the third goal - his fifth of the tournament.

Argentina had an all-star cast in this edition, with Javier Zanetti and Roberto Ayala at the back, Juan Sebastien Veron, Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano in midfield and Carlos Tevez providing support for Messi along with Riquelme. However, they went on to lose 3-0 to Brazil in the final.

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Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (L) jumps for the ball beside Paraguay's defender Paulo Da Silva during their Copa America semifinal football match in Concepcion, Chile on June 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)
Lionel Messi jumps for the ball beside Paraguay's defender Paulo Da Silva. AFP

Argentina 6 Paraguay 1, Copa America 2015

No goals for Messi, but his was an influential display in the six-goal rout. His free-kick set up Marcos Rojo for the opener, while he supplied the pass for the second which was dispatched by Javier Pastore.

His third goal involvement came when he went on a characteristic dribble through the centre and slipped a pass into Pastore, whose close range shot was saved only for Angel Di Maria to tuck home the rebound.

Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain added further late goals.

Despite having another squad full of big name players, Argentina were beaten in the final by Chile after a penalty shoot out.

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Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against USA during their Copa America Centenario semi-final football match. AFP
Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against USA during their Copa America Centenario semi-final. AFP

Argentina 4 USA 0, Copa America Centenario 2016

Just a year later and Messi was back in another semi-final - and once again was the star of the show.

Only three minutes were on the clock when he lofted an inch-perfect chip on to the head of Ezequiel Lavezzi to give Argentina the lead.

Messi was on the scoresheet a little after the half hour when he curled in a trademark free-kick from 25 yards past Brad Guzan. The stunning strike took him clear of Gabriel Batistuta as his country's top goalscorer on 55.

“It is very good that the best player in the world is also the leading scorer of the national team,” said his coach Gerardo Martino.

Messi wasn't finished with this semi-final yet. With a few minutes left, he capitalised on a stray pass inside the USA half to tee up Higuain for his second and Argentina's fourth.

Sadly for Messi, they lost again in the final to Chile on penalties, as he skied his spot-kick over the crossbar. He then said he was finished with international football.

Updated: July 2, 2019 09:43 AM

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