Copa America: Lionel Messi to start for Argentina, Colombia need shootout to reach semis

Both teams scored their first two kicks in the shootout but while substitutes Dayro Moreno and Sebastian Perez scored Colombia’s third and fourth, Miguel Trauco and Christian Cueva missed for Peru.

Colombia's goalkeeper David Ospina, right, was a hero for his country after their shootout win over Peru at East Rutherford, New Jersey. Jason Szenes / EPA
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Lionel Messi will play – and possibly start – in Argentina’s Copa America quarter-final match against Venezuela.

That does not mean Venezuela manager Rafael Dudamel is ready to give up.

“The chances [of advancing] will depend on our performance. Otherwise I would have stayed home watching this tournament on TV,” he said late on Friday, adding that he had never been to Boston – or north of Miami, for that matter. “If I didn’t have faith that our team could win, I would have gone to Disneyland.”

Since leading Barcelona to a 2-0 win over Sevilla to win the Copa del Rey on May 22, Messi has suffered a back injury that kept him on the sideline when the Copa America group stage began. After sitting out the opener against Chile, he played 29 minutes against Panama – but still managed a hat-trick – and came on as a substitute in the group stage finale against Bolivia in Seattle on Tuesday.

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Argentina manager Gerardo Martino said Messi “is definitely in good shape to play from the beginning, so it’s quite possible that he will be a starter”.

“He has evolved in the right path,” Martino said.

The winner of the match between Venezuela and Argentina will play the United States in the semi-finals. Although Argentina’s ranking and tradition make them a heavy favourites, La Albiceleste have struggled to win major tournaments over the past two decades.

Since winning the Copa America in 1993, they have finished second in the tournament three times and also lost in the 2014 World Cup final.

“We need to win in order to be recognised,” Martino said. “For the last few years, the team has been playing well in all the decisive games and it bodes well for this tournament.”

Venezuela finished fourth in the last Copa America, but La Vinotinto are big underdogs against the powerhouse Argentina. Still, Dudamel did not bring his team here to watch Messi’s coronation.

“The goal is not to eliminate Argentina, it is to continue,” he said. “We have great soccer players, we are very ambitious and we are achieving in each stage the goals that we have set for ourselves.”

Dudamel said having the opportunity to play against Messi is a challenge, but it is also something to motivate his players.

“How can that not inspire you, if you’re facing one of the best players in the world? For many, he is the best player in the world,” Dudamel said. They are competitive. They rise up to the challenge. It’s not only Messi. Argentina has great players.”

Colombia keep their cool in ‘intense’ match to beat Peru

Colombia beat Peru 4-2 in a penalty shootout on Friday night to progress to the semi-finals of the Copa America after the two sides played to a dull scoreless draw in New Jersey.

Both teams scored their first two kicks in the shootout but while substitutes Dayro Moreno and Sebastian Perez scored Colombia’s third and fourth, Miguel Trauco and Christian Cueva missed for Peru.

The result, which came after a dour 0-0 draw that was short on excitement for the 80,000 fans, takes Colombia through to a semi-final date against either Mexico or Chile in Chicago next Wednesday.

“It was a very intense game,” said Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, who saved Trauco’s kick with his legs. “This team have played well, we have a great staff and now we need to enjoy the moment before thinking about what’s next.

“You need to be calm at these moments. This stadium is filled with Colombians and they enjoyed it. So now we need to enjoy it.”

Neither side could dominate a game that had 30 fouls but Colombia came closest to scoring through James Rodriguez, who strode forward from midfield in the first half before hitting the post with a shot from 25 yards.

Colombia also had an appeal for a penalty ignored after 53 minutes when Carlos Bacca was bundled over in the box by Renato Tapia.

Peru almost broke the deadlock in the dying seconds but Ospina tipped over a powerful header from Christian Ramos.

The other two semi-finalists will be decided on Saturday when Argentina face Venezuela in Foxborough and Chile take on Mexico in Santa Clara.

The winner of the first game will face the United States in Houston on Tuesday.

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