PERFECT RECORD Argentina doesn't need Messi to win -- again
SEATTLE -- Argentina is showing it does not need Lionel Messi, or most of the rest of its regular starters, to succeed in Copa America Centenario group play. The Albiceleste displayed an electric short passing game, giving a dominating performance in taking a 3-0 win over Bolivia at CenturyLink Field Tuesday night, clinching first place in Group D.
The Argentineans (3-0-0, 9 points), the only team in the tournament with a perfect record, will meet Venezuela in the quarterfinals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday.
Argentina might have the strongest team in Copa America, and it definitely has the most accomplished bench. Tata Martino made six changes to the starting lineup, but the Albiceleste did not miss a beat as Erik Lamela, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Victor Cuesta scored against Bolivia.
Messi, who has now played 73 minutes in the tournament since recovering from a back injury, entered in the second half, but could not penetrate a packed-in defense.
Argentina got off to a strong start.
Lamela’s left-foot free kick from 25 yards deflected off Yasmani Duk, looping into the left side of the goal past Carlos Lampe in the 13th minute.
Two minutes later, Facundo Roncaglia advanced on the right, crossing for a Gonzalo Higuain header, Lavezzi scoring on the rebound.
Duk, a New York Cosmos forward, was replaced in the 24th minute by Diego Bajarano after going down as teammate Luis Gutierrez appeared to elbow Roncaglia, whose head banged into Duk.
Cuesta poked in from the edge of the goal area off a drive by Lavezzi from the right in the 33rd minute.
Argentina seemed poise to pile on the goals as Messi entered after halftime, but the offense stagnated, despite pinning the Bolivians back. Messi had three free kicks from the right early in the half, the best chance missing just wide to the far post in the 61st minute.
Bolivia chased the game from the start, barely able to escape its own end, though somehow getting a chance as Jhasmani Campos missed wide off a throw-in in the 57th minute.
In the 81st minute, Campos was cautioned after fouling Messi, the two briefly going head to head before Roncaglia stepped in.