Lionel Messi scored one goal and provided two assists as Argentina kept alive their bid to end their 28-year Copa America title wait with a 3-0 quarter-final win over 10-man Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday.

Messi hit the post early before showing composure to find Rodrigo De Paul for his maiden international goal in the 40th minute.

Late on, Messi swooped on a heavy touch from Piero Hincapie to set up Lautaro Martinez – for his second goal in two games - before adding one of his own with a superb free-kick.

Argentina extends their unbeaten run to 18 games under head coach Lionel Scaloni. La Tri exit without a win, despite reaching the knockout stage.

Argentina started strong, with Martinez's angled shot saved, while German Pezzella fired into the side-netting from a Messi corner.

Ecuador had a major let-off in the 23rd minute following Carlos Gruezo's error which allowed Messi in one-on-one, only to shoot into the upright.

Jhegson Mendez tested Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez with a thunderous volley and Enner Valencia glanced a header off target as Ecuador offered some threat in an open game.

But Argentina took the lead in the 40th minute with Messi calmly finding De Paul who picked his spot after Ecuador keeper Hernan Galindez raced off his line to clear a through-ball.

Valencia flicked a header wide on half-time, while the Fenerbahce forward also hit the post early in the second half from a tight angle.

Argentina sat back in the second half, with Gonzalo Plata testing Emiliano Martinez in the 80th minute before Messi found Lautaro Martinez for an easy finish after Hincapie's error.

Hincapie was sent off in stoppage-time for a last-man foul following a VAR check, with Messi stepping up to curl home the free-kick from the edge of the box brilliantly.

What does it mean?

Argentina are into the last four as they target a drought-breaking continental crown. La Albiceleste have not lifted the Copa since Gabriel Batistuta inspired them to victory in 1993, claiming back-to-back titles.

Messi's Argentina have come close in recent times, finishing third in 2019 and runners-up in 2004 (prior to Messi's debut), 2007, 2015 and 2016. They have a great shot at ending that wait.

Fast-starting Argentina

De Paul's 40th-minute strike meant La Albiceleste have scored in the first half in 11 consecutive matches. Prior to Saturday's win, 12 of Argentina's past 13 goals had been scored in the opening 45 minutes of matches.

Ecuador's own drought

The 1993 tournament is also relevant for Ecuador, who finished fourth at that Copa; their best result in recent times.

La Tri have not bettered that performance since, with this being the third campaign they have fallen at the quarter-final stage since. Remarkably Ecuador have only won three Copa games since bowing out in the 2017 quarters.

What's next?

Argentina progresses to face Colombia in the semi-finals in Brasilia on Tuesday, while Ecuador pack their bags, with their next competitive action being 2022 World Cup qualifying in September.

Lionel Messi scored one goal and provided two assists as Argentina kept alive their bid to end their 28-year Copa America title wait with a 3-0 quarter-final win over 10-man Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday.

Messi hit the post early before showing composure to find Rodrigo De Paul for his maiden international goal in the 40th minute.

Late on, Messi swooped on a heavy touch from Piero Hincapie to set up Lautaro Martinez – for his second goal in two games - before adding one of his own with a superb free-kick.

Argentina extends their unbeaten run to 18 games under head coach Lionel Scaloni. La Tri exits without a win, despite reaching the knockout stage.

Argentina started strong, with Martinez's angled shot saved, while German Pezzella fired into the side-netting from a Messi corner.

Ecuador had a major let-off in the 23rd minute following Carlos Gruezo's error which allowed Messi in one-on-one, only to shoot into the upright.

Jhegson Mendez tested Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez with a thunderous volley and Enner Valencia glanced a header off target as Ecuador offered some threat in an open game.

But Argentina took the lead in the 40th minute with Messi calmly finding Rodrigo De Paul who picked his spot after Ecuador keeper Hernan Galindez raced off his line to clear a through-ball.

Valencia flicked a header wide on half-time, while the Fenerbahce forward also hit the post early in the second half from a tight angle.

Argentina sat back in the second half, with Gonzalo Plata testing Martinez in the 80th minute before Messi found Martinez for an easy finish after Hincapie's error.

Hincapie was sent off in stoppage-time for a last-man foul following a VAR check, with Messi stepping up to curl home the free-kick from the edge of the box brilliantly.

David Ospina made two saves in the penalty shoot-out to lift Colombia past Uruguay and into the Copa America semi-finals on Saturday.

After both sides went scoreless in normal time, Los Cafeteros converted on all four of their penalties while veteran Ospina saved attempts from Jose Gimenez and Matias Vina.

That left Colombia to celebrate their triumph in a hard-fought, physical encounter in Brasilia after Los Cafeteros had struggled into the quarter-finals.

Uruguay entered the quarter-finals having won two games in a row, while Colombia had been defeated in their final two group-stage games.

After waiting 10 days since their last game, Colombia looked the more energetic side in the opening half, out-shooting Uruguay 4-1 but Fernando Muslera had little to do in the Uruguay net.

Luis Muriel fired wide on an open look just prior to half-time, minutes after sending a free kick from a dangerous spot over.

Colombia's momentum carried over to the second half, as Luis Diaz drove straight to the Uruguay goal in the opening seconds but could not get a clear look.

Uruguay's first dangerous chance came in the 50th minute, when Nahitan Nandez curled a ball in from the right side that caught Ospina off-balance, but the goalkeeper acrobatically tipped the ball away from the top corner.

Colombia came close in the 73rd minute as Rafael Borre's cross from the right side found Duvan Zapata, but Muslera parried away the header from eight yards.

Both sides charged forward at every opportunity in the final 15 minutes but neither came close to scoring as Colombia kept Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani at bay throughout.

It was the fourth consecutive Copa America quarter-final for Colombia in which the game was scoreless in regulation.

When Brazil spring to mind, you don't normally associate defensive stability and clean sheets with the Selecao.

Brazil's flair and free-flowing football have made them the most feared and entertaining nation in world football.

But Tite's Selecao are built differently.

Playing with 10 men from the 48th minute, defending champions Brazil overcame their numerical disadvantage and Chile 1-0 in the Copa America quarter-finals on Friday.

Lucas Paqueta came off the bench at half-time and settled the contest a minute into the second half in Rio de Janeiro, where Gabriel Jesus saw red for a shocking high boot to the face of Chile's Eugenio Mena.

There was a Chile onslaught as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser and while Ben Brereton hit the crossbar, Brazil stood firm to extend their unbeaten streak while setting up a showdown with 2019 runners-up Peru.

In a run dating back to November 2019, Brazil have gone 12 matches without a defeat, including nine clean sheets in the process.

 

"It's a football game, you can't have a smile all the time. Anyone who played knows, you even discuss with friends, discuss plays," said Neymar, who has attempted the second-most dribbles (21) behind Lionel Messi (22) this tournament, while he has been fouled the most (21). 

"Chile are a great team, it was a great test, but the important thing is that we got the victory and advanced to the semi-finals."

Brazil have now won their last five games against two-time champions Chile at the Copa, scoring 12 goals and only conceding once.

Since his appointment in 2016, Brazil have kept 41 clean sheets in 59 games under head coach Tite across all competitions (69.5 per cent).

It further highlights the defensive strength of the Selecao with Tite at the helm.

Against Chile, Casemiro made a game-high four tackles in midfield, defender Marquinhos tallied four clearances, and Richarlison intercepted the ball on five occasions while the star forward gained possession eight times along with full-back Renan Lodi.

When it comes to Tite and Brazil, it is a team effort. Attacking and defending together across the pitch.

As Brazil eye a 10th Copa title, Tite's side have style and substance.

Defending champions Brazil kept their hopes of back-to-back titles alive after overcoming a numerical disadvantage and Chile 1-0 en route to the Copa America semi-finals.

Brazil substitute Lucas Paqueta scored in the 46th minute and it proved to be the winning goal on Friday, despite Gabriel Jesus' remarkable red card in Rio de Janeiro.

Jesus was sent off for a high boot to the face of Chile's Eugenio Mena two minutes after Paqueta's strike, but Tite's Brazil withstood an onslaught from La Roja to set up a final-four showdown with 2019 runners-up Peru.

Brazil had entered the clash having won their previous for Copa clashes with Chile – scoring 11 goals and conceding just once across the streak, while the team's 10-game winning streak was snapped following a draw against Ecuador in the final group-stage match.

Chile also welcomed back star forward Alexis Sanchez for his first appearance at this year's CONMEBOL showpiece following a calf injury.

Roberto Firmino came within a whisker of opening the scoring in the 22nd minute, but the outstretched Brazil forward was unable to get on the end of Neymar's perfect delivery at the back post.

Eduardo Vargas – alone up front – twisted and turned to fire a shot off from an angle, but Brazil goalkeeper Ederson got down low to make a fine save minutes later.

Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced into action approaching half-time, tipping Jesus' powerful shot over the crossbar after Neymar's pass bobbled into the forward's path.

Paqueta came off the bench and broke the deadlock within a minute of the second half starting – firing a ball past Bravo following a neat flick from Neymar.

Brazil celebrated wildly but their mood quickly changed when Jesus saw red for a shocking karate kick to the face of Mena just moments later.

Chile put the ball in the back of the net via Vargas in the 62nd minute, however, it was immediately ruled out for offside.

A great driving run form Neymar almost resulted in a second goal for Brazil after 67 minutes, but Bravo made himself big to thwart the Paris Saint-Germain man.

Minutes later, a looping header from cult figure Ben Brereton then dropped onto the crossbar as the substitute nearly restored parity for Chile, who continued to push players forward.

Peru became the first side to book their place in the Copa America semi-finals after beating Paraguay on penalties in a dramatic tie that finished 3-3 following normal time and saw both teams receive red cards.

Ricardo Gareca's Peru recovered from a goal down thanks to Gianluca Lapadula's first-half double at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico, where Gustavo Gomez had given Paraguay an early lead on Friday.

Paraguay lost captain Gomez to a controversial second bookable offence just before half-time yet hit back through Junior Alonso's strike early in the second half.

Yoshimar Yotun appeared to have won the game for 2019 runners-up Peru with a deflected goal 10 minutes from time, but Andre Carrillo was also dismissed and substitute Gabriel Avalos levelled up in the final seconds to send the contest to penalties.

Following the script of the previous 90 minutes, the shoot-out was equally as eventful as four players failed to convert from 12 yards, but the drama was ended when Miguel Trauco tucked away the decisive spot-kick to set up a semi-final with defending champions Brazil or two-time winners Chile.

Argentina are determined to avoid allowing Ecuador any sweet 16 celebrations after Saturday's quarter-final, having never lost in 15 previous Copa America clashes with La Tri.

Experienced defender Nicolas Otamendi said Argentina would look to provide a platform for their attacking stars, who include the likes of Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martinez, by keeping it tight at the back against the Ecuadorians.

While Argentina topped their group, achieving three wins and a draw from four games, Ecuador scraped through with three draws and a defeat from the pool containing Brazil.

It was a 1-1 draw with an under-strength Brazil in Goiania on Sunday that carried Ecuador into the knockout rounds, and it would be a monumental shock if they beat Argentina.

However, the last-eight clash is also being played in Goiania, at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico where Ecuador tamed the Selecao.

Otamendi, the former Manchester City star who now plays club football for Benfica, said: "Defensive solidity gives you a better attack. With the attacking potential we have, it's important to give them security so they can attack calmly.

"We have to try to have defensive order to take advantage of the potential we have from midfield forward."

Otamendi added: "This shirt demands commitment and winning tournaments. You always want to make a mark with your country. We will try to do our best to progress."

Argentina last won the Copa America in 1993 and head coach Lionel Scaloni told a news conference that playmaker Giovani Lo Celso would start Saturday's game.

"Ecuador are rivals of maximum difficulty," Scaloni added. "We must respect them and go out into the field with total humility. It will be a very difficult match."

Ecuador midfielder Jhegson Mendez was outstanding against Brazil, with team highs for possession gained (10 times) and interceptions (3), while finding his man with 48 of 50 passes for a 96 per cent success rate.

It will take something similar to attempt to stifle Argentina, and Mendez said on Friday: "Every game is different, each team has its own approach. We have ours and we will try in midfield to control as much of the game as possible to give ourselves more chances and be 100 per cent concentrated to minimise errors."

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

Amid seemingly endless hoopla over when or whether he will sign a new Barcelona contract, Messi is attempting to stay focused on delivering a major trophy for his country. He won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2008 but that feels like a meagre return for his contribution to La Albiceleste. Messi took his tallies to 75 goals and 148 appearances when he struck twice in the group finale against Bolivia. It is beyond obvious that he is the man Ecuador will fear the most.

Ecuador – Jhegson Mendez

Enner Valencia and Angel Mena were excellent going forward against Brazil, but Ecuador's hopes for their clash with a full-strength Argentina are likely to hinge on how they manage the game. If Mendez and his midfield colleagues can show discipline, keep their shape and protect their defence, they will have done exceedingly well. But that will be imperative if they are to somehow pull off a victory.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have never lost against Ecuador at the Copa America in 15 games (W10 D5). The Argentinians have scored in 13 of those 15 games. However, this will be the first meeting between the teams in the knockout stage of the competition.

- Argentina have kept three cleen sheets in their last five games against Ecuador in the Copa America (W3 D2). In this period, Argentina have scored 12 goals and only conceded two.

- Ecuador have lost just one of their last five games in the Copa America, including a draw with guest team Japan at the 2019 tournament. However, they are winless in these five matches, with four draws and a defeat.

- Argentina were the only team to score a direct free-kick in the 2021 Copa America group stage. Messi scored this goal against Chile at the start of the competition.

- Messi was the player with the most dribbles completed (22) in the group stage.

Uruguay face Colombia in the Copa America quarter-finals in Brasilia on Saturday buoyed by recent form that could see them challenge for the trophy again.

La Celeste are the most successful side in the competition's history with 15 wins but their last came 10 years ago when they beat Paraguay in the final in Buenos Aires.

Their 2021 campaign began inauspiciously with defeat to Argentina and a draw with Chile, but consecutive wins over Bolivia and Paraguay secured their place in the quarter-finals.

They may only have scored once through Edinson Cavani's first-half penalty, but Oscar Tabarez's men fired in 18 shots in their previous game and 22 in the win over Bolivia. Those are the most they have attempted against South American sides in this competition since they lifted the trophy a decade ago.

Uruguay are also on a run of consecutive victories at the same finals for the first time since 2011 and are beginning to look a far more confident side than the one that scored only once in five competitive games from November 2020 until June 21 this year.

By contrast, Colombia have failed to build on their opening win over Ecuador. A disappointing stalemate with Venezuela was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Peru, before they then lost to Brazil via the same scoreline after a late Casemiro winner settled a controversial clash in Rio de Janeiro.

Their previous meeting with Uruguay at this tournament was in the third-place play-off in 2004, in which they lost 2-1. Prior to that, their last victory over these opponents was in September 1975, when they won the first leg of their semi-final tie 3-0.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Edinson Cavani

With two goals in two games, Cavani is the primary reason Uruguay have reached this stage and he is likely to be pivotal to their hopes of progressing further.

The Manchester United striker needs one goal to make this his most productive Copa America campaign.

Colombia – Yerry Mina

If Colombia are to keep Uruguay's attack quiet, they will need an imperious performance from centre-back Yerry Mina.

The Everton man has won 20 aerial duels at this year's finals, the most of any player.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have registered four wins, one draw and one defeat in their previous six meetings with Colombia at the Copa America.
- This will be the second quarter-final meeting between these sides in this competition. The previous clash was in 1993: after a 1-1 draw, Los Cafeteros advanced to the next round on penalties.
- Uruguay have lost only one of their past nine games at the Copa America (W5 D3). They have two consecutive victories, something they have not achieved in the same edition of the tournament since 2011, when they ended up becoming champions.
- Uruguay and Paraguay are the only teams that have not conceded goals in the second half of their matches at this year's Copa America.

Paraguay will need to end a torrid run of form against Peru if they are to book a place in the semi-finals of the Copa America. 

Eduardo Berizzo's side have failed to win any of their last seven games against Peru, with their last victory coming in a friendly in November 2014. 

A 1-0 defeat to Uruguay in their final Group A game meant Paraguay finished third with six points from four games. 

They suffered a blow in that clash when influential midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off.

A late decision will be made on the Newcastle United man's fitness ahead of the match at Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiania, with Oscar Romero and Andres Cubas among the options to come into the starting XI.

Peru, meanwhile, wrapped up their Group B campaign with a slender 1-0 victory over Venezuela. 

Although anything but progress to the knockout stages would have been considered disappointing, Ricardo Gareca's team perhaps did better than they expected in beating Colombia to second place in the group.

Peru claimed two wins and a draw from their four games, with their only defeat coming against Brazil, who may well be their semi-final opponents should they progress.

Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Gareca said: "We are improving day by day, game by game. Now it is the elimination stage so we need to be more attentive during the game. 

"The more we can develop what we believe and understand what our strengths are there will be possibilities for us."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru – Christian Cueva

If Peru are to secure progression to the last four then the creative burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Cueva. Three key passes, one shot, five tackles and eight possession regains summed up an all-action performance from the 29-year-old against Venezuela last time out.

Paraguay – Junior Alonso

There was little to get excited about in the defeat to Uruguay, but captain Alonso can be pleased with his performance. The Atletico Mineiro defender made more interceptions (four) than any other player on the pitch, while no player made more than his five clearances.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Peru have only lost one of their last four games against Paraguay in the Copa America (W1 D2), after being defeated in the previous four.
- Paraguay conceded less than one goal per game on average in their last seven Copa America games.
- In fact, Paraguay have not conceded more than two goals in the competition since June 2015 (1-6 v Argentina).
- No other team has scored more left-footed goals in this Copa America than Paraguay. Four of their five goals have come this way.
- Alonso is the player with the most successful passes so far in this Copa America (256).

Brazil have recent history on their side as they take on Chile on Friday, with a place in the Copa America semi-finals up for grabs.

The tournament hosts – and defending champions – won their opening three fixtures before a second-string team drew 1-1 with Ecuador last time out.

Their place at the top of Group B pitted them against Chile, who finished fourth in Group A.

Champions in 2015 and 2016, Chile won only one game in the group stage, beating Bolivia 1-0. They recorded two draws either side of that victory before a disappointing 2-0 reverse to Paraguay.

Tite's team have won their previous four Copa America clashes with Chile, and what would appear an easier passage to the final awaits them should they extend that run in Rio de Janeiro.

Peru, thrashed by Brazil 4-0 in the group stage, or Paraguay will be the semi-final opponents for the winner of Friday's encounter, and though Brazil will be confident, Chile's single group-stage loss was their only defeat in their past seven games.

"The objectives set were for performance and results in the first stage," Tite told a news conference on Thursday.

"We got three wins and a draw; we used all the players. We are prepared for what is coming with confidence. The objectives were fulfilled.

"In those decisive games, we have to be very strong in four factors: the tactical, technical, physical and emotional parts. If we are, we are much closer to victory."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Richarlison

No other Brazil player has had more touches in the opposition box at the Copa America than Richarlison (26). Indeed, only Uruguay's Luis Suarez (27) has managed more.

Chile – Arturo Vidal

Inter's Vidal had a game-high 113 touches in Chile's defeat to Paraguay, though he had just one attempt and failed to create a chance. Against a star-studded Brazil team, Martin Lasarte will need the combative midfielder at his battling best.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Brazil's draw with Ecuador snapped a 10-match winning streak, which stretched back to a friendly defeat to Argentina in November 2019.
- Across Brazil's four straight wins over Chile in the Copa America, they have scored 11 goals, conceding just once in return.
- In fact, Brazil have been able to keep a clean sheet against La Roja in three of the past four games in the Copa America.
- The last time Chile were able to score more than one goal against Brazil in the competition was in the 1993 edition, in a 3-2 victory.
- No other team has scored more headed goals at this year's tournament than Brazil (three).

Lautaro Martinez insists he was not feeling the pressure despite a goal drought that ended with his strike in Argentina's 4-1 Copa America win over Bolivia on Monday.

The win extended Lionel Scaloni's side's unbeaten run to 17 matches – the joint-third longest undefeated sequence in the country's history – yet Argentina came into the game having only scored three goals from as many Copa games.

Inter forward Martinez had drawn a blank in his past five games for Argentina, dating back to November's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Peru.

Martinez was back on the scoresheet against the bottom side in Group A, coming off the bench to strike in the 65th minute in a resounding win.

"I'm calm because the coaching staff and my team-mates trust me," Martinez told TyC Sports.

"The ball sometimes goes in and sometimes it doesn't. Strikers live by goals, but I stayed calm."

Argentina's victory sealed top spot in Group B, locking in a quarter-final date with Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday.

"We will face what comes next in the Copa in the best way; a tough opponent that we already know," Martinez said.

Lionel Messi produced a masterclass with two goals and an assist, making history as Argentina's most capped player in style as he surpassed former team-mate Javier Mascherano's tally with his 148th international cap.

It was Messi's first brace for Argentina in 18 games, dating back to August 2019. The 34-year-old also recorded his second two-goal outing in a Copa fixture.

Martinez added: "I am happy with the team's work, we are growing. Bolivia was already eliminated and we took the game on seriously and responsibly. Every time you play with Argentina you have to go in with everything to win."

Argentina head coach Scaloni said he has the "utmost respect" for Ecuador and would not be drawn on his likely line-up for the game.

"I would be lying if I said who is going to play on Saturday against Ecuador," he said.

Scaloni did clarify defender Cristian Romero was left out against Bolivia as he manages his squad ahead of the Ecuador game, not due to a fresh injury.

"There is no need to worry about Cristian," he said. "He was left off the bench because very difficult games are coming and the idea is that everyone needs minutes."

He added: "We have the utmost respect for Ecuador. They have shown that they are a good team, young, dynamic, with good players and are going to fight."

When it comes to Lionel Messi, there are not enough superlatives to describe his brilliance.

That was the case following Messi's magical performance in his record-breaking appearance for Argentina.

Two goals and one unbelievable assist to guide Argentina to a 4-1 rout of Bolivia at the Copa America on Monday.

Three goal involvements all in 45-minutes work for Messi, who shattered another record with his 148th international cap, surpassing former team-mate Javier Mascherano.

Already La Albiceleste's all-time leading scorer, it was Messi's first brace for Argentina in 18 games, dating back to August 2019. The 34-year-old also recorded his second two-goal outing in a Copa fixture.

Messi improved his international tally to 75, while netting his 11th and 12th career Copa goals – the fourth-highest scorer for Argentina at the showpiece CONMEBOL tournament.

 

At this stage of his remarkable career, no one should be surprised by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

However, Messi was simply incredible from the outset in a merciless display in the final Group A fixture in Cuiaba.

Messi – who has not missed a minute of Argentina's four Copa games in 2021 so far – broke the internet in the sixth minute.

Angel Correa's turn outside the penalty area sparked the move as the ball found the feet of Messi.

Messi's back was towards goal, while the superstar captain was surrounded by at least three Bolivia defenders. But, we know how this movie ends.

He somehow scooped the ball to Alejandro Gomez and the evergreen veteran finished on the volley to cap an irresistible passage of play.

A Messi penalty followed just past the half-hour mark – the 34-year-old converting the spot-kick to get in on the action.

What happened next was even better.

Close friend Sergio Aguero, who will unite with Messi at Barcelona in 2021-22, was the architect. Manchester City's all-time leading goalscorer playing a throughball approaching half-time.

Messi beat the offside trap and beat Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe with a superb lob in the 42nd minute.

If not for Lampe's heroics, Messi – who completed a game-high 63 passes in the opponent's half while attempting four shots on target (a Copa record) – would have finished the match with more than a hat-trick.

Regardless, it was a special display as Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 17 matches (W10 D7) under Lionel Scaloni – the joint-third longest undefeated sequence of a coach in the country's history, alongside Guillermo Stabile.

While Messi still covets an elusive international crown with Argentina, the famous number 10 celebrated his latest milestone only he knows how.

Lionel Messi produced a masterclass with two goals and an assist as he made history in Argentina's 4-1 victory over Bolivia at the Copa America.

Messi became Argentina's all-time record appearances holder after surpassing former team-mate Javier Mascherano with his 148th international cap in Cuiaba on Monday.

On the field, Messi was in magical form as he scored twice to take his internationally tally to 75, while creating the opener in a devastating first-half display in Argentina's final Group A fixture.

Messi somehow scooped the ball to Alejandro Gomez, who finished on the volley in the sixth minute, before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner stepped up to covert a 33rd-minute penalty and then beat Carlos Lampe with a superb lob nine minutes later.

Erwin Saavedra pulled a goal back for Bolivia in the 60th minute but Lautaro Martinez came off the bench and restored the three-goal advantage minutes later as Argentina sealed top spot to set up a quarter-final showdown against Ecuador.

Argentina were in control against a Bolivia team already eliminated, forcing a superb double-save from goalkeeper Lampe, who showed amazing agility to thwart Sergio Aguero and Angel Correa in the third minute.

Messi took centre stage as Argentina broke the deadlock – the superstar captain providing a highlight moment with a memorable assist as he had his back towards goal while teeing up in-form team-mate Gomez.

Bolivia's Diego Bejarano was penalised for a foul on Gomez inside the box after the half-hour mark and Messi made no mistake with the spot-kick.

After Franco Armani was called into action following a long-range effort from Jeyson Chura, Messi put Argentina 3-0 ahead courtesy of a perfectly chipped shot over Lampe prior to the interval, having been played through by Aguero.

Some complacency crept into Argentina's game in the second half and it was punished by Bolivia on the hour mark after Saavedra finished clinically into the roof of the net following Leonel Justiniano's driving run to the byline.

Martinez was only on the pitch for two minutes when he netted Argentina's fourth goal in the 65th minute and the merciless South American powerhouse should have had more, if not for the efforts of Lampe during the closing stages.

Edinson Cavani's 21st-minute penalty lifted Uruguay into second spot in Group A and booked a quarter-final date with Colombia after a 1-0 win over Paraguay at the Copa America on Monday.

In the final group game, Manchester United forward Cavani's goal moved Uruguay up from fourth to second position, avoiding a last-16 meeting with hosts and defending champions Brazil.

Paraguay came into the contest hoping to claim their first Copa win against Uruguay since 1947, with an outside chance of topping Group A, but instead slipped to third and will next face Peru.

To make matters worse for La Albirroja, influential Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off, placing his quarter-final availability in doubt.

Uruguay needed to avoid defeat to ensure they would not face Group B winners Brazil in the quarters and started with intent as Cavani headed wide in the third minute, while team-mate Giorgian De Arrascaeta grazed the post moments later.

La Celeste won a penalty following a clumsy challenge from Angel Romero as Cavani emphatically hammered the spot-kick past Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva.

Uruguay continued to dominate as Nicolas De La Cruz went on a superb run, beating two opponents, before laying off for Cavani, whose dangerous cutback across goal was cleared by Omar Alderete.

Almiron went off injured on the half-hour mark, before Uruguay thought they had a second via Matias Vecino, although it was disallowed with Cavani offside in the build-up.

Paraguay had a goal disallowed early in the second half too, when an offside Oscar Romero nodded home.

Luis Suarez replaced Cavani in the 68th minute and should have made it 2-0 when he broke clear alongside Rodrigo Bentancur but the pair got their wires crossed.

Lionel Messi has made history with Argentina, becoming the country's all-time record appearances holder in the Copa America clash against Bolivia.

Messi was named in the starting line-up for Argentina's final Group A fixture on Monday, surpassing former team-mate Javier Mascherano with his 148th international cap.

Argentina captain Messi is still chasing an elusive major honour in international colours, a fact somewhat at odds with his gloriously decorated career at LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona.

Nevertheless, as he represents La Albiceleste for the 148th time, the 34-year-old should also reflect upon a brilliant body of work, where he has typically set new standards – most notably standing as Argentina's all-time record goalscorer with 73.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at Messi's Argentina career in numbers.

 

CONMEBOL'S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

In the eternal argument between fans of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal superstar's international record is sometimes held up as a point of difference.

Ronaldo pulled level with Ali Daei's all-time record of 109 goals for his country during the reigning European champions' 2-2 draw with France at Euro 2020 last week.

But there are a collection of "gimme" opponents afforded to Ronaldo within the European qualifiers that Messi simply does not enjoy.

The arduous CONMEBOL World Cup qualification marathon means plenty of his Argentina caps have arrived against high-quality opposition.

The highest proportion of his caps have come in South American World Cup qualifiers, where he has featured 50 times. This is set against 30 Copa outings, 19 appearances at the World Cup and 47 caps in international friendlies.

 

HIGH FIVES, BRILLIANT TREBLES

Argentina's bitter rivals Brazil, Paraguay and their 2015 and 2016 Copa America final tormentors Chile have faced up to Messi more than any other nation.

He has played them all 11 times, scoring five goals versus each. Against Bolivia, he will be aiming to improve upon a record of three goals from nine outings, with La Paz's sapping altitude pleasingly not a factor for Messi on this occasion.

Three of those strikes versus Brazil came in one sparkling 4-3 friendly win at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium in 2012.

Overall, he has six international hat-tricks and none more telling than the sensational salvo to secure a 3-1 win away to Ecuador that virtually single-handedly dragged Argentina to Russia 2018.

 

NIGHTMARE START AND OTHER MILESTONES

Messi's extended run at the summit of world football was not so easy to predict when he marked his Argentina debut from the bench against Hungary in Budapest in 2005 with a red card almost immediately after coming on.

His first goal came against Croatia in Basel on cap number six, while the otherwise forgettable 2010 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany in Cape Town was Messi's 50th cap.

Cap 100 came against guest participants Jamaica in the 2015 Copa America, a campaign that ended in now familiar disappointment.

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