Lionel Messi scored a beautiful free-kick goal in the 32nd minute. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)
The U.S. men’s soccer team will play in the Copa America Centenario third-place game, as it lost 4-0 against Argentina in a sold-out NRG Stadium in Houston.
Despite the physical play from the U.S. defense, the Argentinian attack, led by Lionel Messi, peppered 10 shots at netminder Brad Guzan. The Americans meanwhile failed to register a shot on goal, and were smothered on all sides of the pitch by the No. 1-ranked team in the FIFA world rankings.
The USMNT’s night started off with an omen for the rest of the game. Three minutes into the contest, Ezequiel Lavezzi produced a give-and-go with Messi near the top of the box after dribbling out a short corner kick. Messi chipped the ball toward the net, where a streaking Lavezzi was able to head it in and put Argentina up 1-0.
Messi would later get a goal of his own in the 32nd minute, and it was one that broke his country’s international goal record. After being fouled on the edge of the penalty area, Messi was placed just outside the box on a free kick. With Messi curling it to the right and around a four-man wall, the ball found the top right corner of the net. It was the 55th international goal for the 28-year-old legend.
After halftime, Gonzalo Higuain darted past John Brooks, collected his own rebounded shot off of Guzan, and called the game at the 50th minute by putting it into the back of the net. For good measure, Messi connected with Higuain in the 86th minute to make it 4-0, where the American defense was nowhere to be found in the waning minutes of the game.
Highlighted by also having two-thirds of possession throughout the entire game, the Argentinian national team proved through complete domination that it is ready to win its first Copa America title since 1993. All was not positive though, as Lavezzi injured himself as he went to head a ball near the side barrier. Tumbling over the barrier, Lavezzi was carried off and as of writing, there is no update of whether he will play in Argentina’s championship match.
While this was anything but a graceful exit for the USMNT, it still left a positive mark on the state of U.S. soccer at Copa America Centenario. The team was the only North American side to make it to the semifinals, and faced arguably the toughest side in the tournament. The Americans were still out-classed by the South American side in every aspect of the game, but still have one more match to prove their worth in the world’s game.
This match also gave Christian Pulisic, a promising 17-year-old, a full second half of play against a world-class international side, which is positive for his already rapid growth and development. He showed some quality midfield play in his limited time, causing some havoc for the Argentine defense, but not enough to warrant any solid chances.
Argentina will face the winner of the Chile-Colombia match, while the Americans will take on the loser of that fixture on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Glendale, Arizona.