Lionel Messi is one win away from ending his long wait for a a major international trophy after Argentina booked their place in the Copa America final, and a showdown with Brazil, with a penalty shootout win over Colombia in Tuesday's semi-final.
With the scores level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, Argentina won the shootout 3-2 after three saves by Emiliano Martinez at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.
Lautaro Martinez had opened the scoring in the seventh minute when the Argentina striker was set up by Messi before finishing in the right corner past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. It was Messi's fifth assist of the tournament to go with his chart-topping four goals.
A more aggressive Colombia, led by Juan Cuadrado, hit the bar and the post in the second half before they levelled in the 61st minute with Luis Diaz, who received the ball on the left of Argentina's box and shot from a tight angle to beat Martinez.
Messi had the chance to seal the win for Argentina in regular time but the Barcelona forward hit the post in the 81st minute from close range.
Aston Villa keeper Martinez saved the penalties of Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona in the shootout. Messi converted his opportunity from the spot and was one of the most joyous players in the celebrations.
In tears, Martinez said after the match he wanted to face Brazil, who defeated Peru 1-0 in the first-semi-final, in the final in the Maracana Stadium.
“It is a great team, the favourite. But we have a great coach, we have the best player in the world and we will try to win it,” he said.
Messi, 34, has come up short in four previous major international finals, having lost three at the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup.
To make it fifth time lucky, Messi and Argentina will need to overcome a strong Brazil side led by his former Barca teammate Neymar. Messi should have enjoyed home advantage but will instead need to beat Brazil at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro after the tournament was moved away from Argentina due to Covid-19 related issues.
Argentina will at least be buoyed by the absence of Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus, who will miss the final through suspension after his red card against Peru.