Lionel Messi passed Javier Mascherano as Argentina’s most capped international on Monday and scored twice as the side beat Bolivia 4-1 to set up a Copa America quarterfinal against Ecuador.
Messi was in fine form on his 148th appearance for Argentina and it was his sublime pass that set up Alejandro Gomez to volley home the opening goal after five minutes.
Barcelona forward Messi doubled his side's lead from the penalty spot just after the half-hour mark and then made it 3-0 shortly before halftime when he ran on to a through ball from Sergio Aguero and lobbed Carlos Lampe.
Bolivia, which had lost its previous 11 Copa America matches, made life more difficult for itself by repeatedly giving up possession in its own half. However, t improved after the break and surprised Argentina on the hour when Erwin Saavedra swept home a cross from the right to make it 3-1.
Its slight hopes of a comeback were extinguished within five minutes as substitute Lautaro Martinez restored Argentina’s three-goal advantage within seconds of replacing Sergio Aguero. Messi’s goals were his 74th and 75th for the national side and it could have been more but for another excellent performance by Lampe in the Bolivian goal.
The win extended Argentina’s unbeaten streak to 17 games, a run that goes back to the last Copa America when it lost to Brazil in the semifinal.
“We’re in good form going into the quarterfinals,” said Giovani Lo Celso, who came on in the second half.
“The team knows how it is playing and what it wants to do. We’re getting better and now comes the most beautiful part,” he added.
The result means Argentina will face Ecuador in the last eight on Saturday while Uruguay, which beat Paraguay 1-0, will play Colombia the same day. Host nation Brazil will take on Chile in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, while Paraguay plays Peru the same day.
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