Lionel Messi and Argentina held on to edge out Colombia 3-2 on penalties early Wednesday morning at the Estadio Nacional de Brasília to set up a mouthwatering final clash with hosts, Brazil.
Argentina started well and scored in the seventh minute through Lautaro Martinez, who latched on to a pass from Messi to score his second goal of the tournament.
Juan Cuadrado tried an instant riposte within a minute with a shot that was well parried by Emiliano Martinez. The Aston Villa goalkeeper had to be treated for an injury in the 10th minute as Colombia raised the tempo of the encounter.
Giovanni Lo Celso was shown the first yellow card of the match on 21st minute as he recklessly lunged at Wilmar Barrios. Barrios then went close with a shot in the 37th minute as the Colombians wrestled ball possession away from the Argentines. The shot went off the post. Yery Mina then followed with a thumping header that smacked the crossbar.
At the end of the first half, there was a VAR check for a possible penalty for Argentina which came to nothing as Venezuelan referee, Jesus Valenzuela, waved play on.
The second half started with Colombian changes-Rafael Santos Borre was replaced by Edwin Cardona; Gustavo Cuellar replaced by Yimmi Chara, and Nahuel Molina was replaced by Gonzalo Montiel.
Diaz tested Martinez with a long-range shot, which he handled well. Messi received treatment as the game became more physical as the Colombian team got more of the ball possession-55% to 45% for Argentina.
The pressure finally paid off on the hour as Cardona split the Argentine defence for Luis Diaz to equalise.
None of the two teams could find the winner and the match went straight to penalties. Cuadrado converted the first and Messi responded. Davidson Sanchez’s kick was saved, followed by Rodrigo De Paul, who also missed for Argentina.
Mina then stepped and Martinez saved again. Leandro Parades scored; Miguel Borja converted; Lautaro Martinez scored and Emiliano Martinez saved from Cardona-his third save in the shootout to hand Argentina the final ticket.
It gives Messi a great chance to win his first title with the national team when they confront Brazil on Saturday at the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
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