Argentina cruised into the semi-finals of the Copa America tonight thanks to a masterful second half display by Juan Roman Riquelme.
Riquelme scored a brilliant goal two minutes into the second period and set up another for Lionel Messi shortly afterwards. Javier Mascherano scored his second goal in two games in the 76th minute and Riquelme made it four with five minutes left.
The 4-0 win was as conclusive as it sounds and means that Argentina, the only team to win all four of their matches so far, now travel to Puerto Ordaz for a semi-final tie on Wednesday against Mexico, who hammered Paraguay 6-0 in the night’s earlier match. The first half was a dull affair with neither side able to take a firm grip on the match. Peru’s Paulo Guerrero might have done better after Manchester United full back Gabriel Heinze stepped on the ball and gave him a look at goal and Roberto Ayala just failed to get his head on the end of a free kick.
But the two moments of brilliance both came from the mercurial Lionel Messi. Seventeen minutes into the game he exploded into the box and let fly with a flicked shot that took a deflection onto the post. And then two minutes later he jinked past four defenders before seeing his shot blocked.
The first half was goalless, however, and Alfio Basile introduced Carlos Tevez for a ponderous Diego Milito at half time. The change had an instant effect. Within seconds of the restart Tevez exchanged passes with Messi before laying the ball off to Riquelme on the edge of the box. He looked up and coolly curled a left-foot sot into the far side of the net.
Tevez almost doubled Argentina’s lead four minutes later when he threw himself at a Javier Zanetti cross and was unlucky to see his header ricochet off the bar.
But the second was not long in coming and again it was Riquelme who did the damage. The Boca Juniors midfielder took the ball on the edge of the area and slotted an inch perfect pass into the area for Messi to slide under the keeper.
Mascherano, who scored his first international goal against Paraguay on Thursday, got another when he was on hand to hammer home the third after the keeper parried a shot from Messi.
And Riquelme himself added a fourth after he slotted away a Tevez pass following a swift counterattack.