SEATTLE, WA - Both Argentina and Bolivia entered their match knowing their respective fates. Argentina knew regardless of a win, loss or tie, that they would be through to the quarterfinals. Bolivia also knew that no matter what happened, this would be their last game in Copa America Centenario.
Argentina entered the match with two wins in two games played (2-1 win over Chile and 5-0 win over Panama). Bolivia entered the match with two losses (2-1 to Panama and 2-1 to Chile) and was looking to leave Copa America with a point(s) and some dignity.
With goals from Erik Lamela, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Victor Cuesta in the first 32 minutes, the game was over before the first half ended.
Lionel Messi not in starting XI
To the displeasure of the many of the 45,753 in attendance, Lionel Messi did not start in the game for Argentina. Rest assured that there were many fans that were not happy but at the same time, they had to understand there was no reason for Gerardo Martino to start him in a game that didn’t matter in the end.
Argentina strikes first and often
Just 13 minutes into the game, Argentina struck first. Erik Lamela lined up to take a free kick out 30-yards from goal. His shot hit the wall, but deflected off of Yasmani Duk and beat Carlos Lampe who was going to his left. Just two minutes later, Ezequiel Lavezzi got in on the action. Lampe stopped the initial header, but the ball fell to the feet of Lavezzi and he made Bolivia pay. Just 15 minutes into the game and Argentina was up 2-0.
Argentina would get on the board once again in the 32nd minute. After some great play in and around the penalty box, Lavezzi took a shot that found the foot of Victor Cuesta. Just Cuesta getting his foot on the shot was enough to redirect the ball into the net. It was Cuesta’s first international goal.
Fans start chanting for Messi early in the first half
Moments later, the fans in Seattle started chanting Messi’s name. It was clearly a little too early for Messi to be inserted into the game, but the fans were letting Martino know what they wanted. Once again in the 31st, 34th & 41st minutes, the fans started up the Messi chants again.
Bolivia headed into halftime with no shots
Almost all of the first half action was towards the Bolivian goal. Bolivia did not register one a shot on goal the entire first half, as they were outshot by Argentina 6-0. Argentina had more goals,3, than Bolivia had shots, 0. This was all done without arguably the best player on the pitch in Lionel Messi.
Messi starts in second half
The fans in Seattle got their wish when Martino decided to let Messi start the second half. This brought many cheers from the fans in attendance. Every time that he touched the ball in the second half, the fans cheered. Messi almost opened his account in the 60th minute off of a free kick. Messi went far post, but the ball didn't have enough curl on it and went just wide and out for a goal kick.
Argentina dominates second half
The second half was a lot like the first half with Argentina dominating possession. The game could have easily been ended with Argentina having two or three more goals to their name.
It was more of a show for Messi and Argentina has they seemed to be having fun toying with Bolivia. At one point, Messi nutmegged the Bolivian goalkeeper, Lampe, even though he was offside. Messi was seen smiling as he walked back up the pitch.
After two minutes of stoppage time, Argentina left Seattle with the win and at the top of Group D.
Bolivia time in the tournament is over. They will head back to Estadio Hernando Siles wondering what could have been. They played extremely hard in this tournament and deserved more than zero points. Argentina will now travel cross-country to take on Venezuela at Gillette Stadium at Foxborough, MA on Saturday, June 18. The winner will take on the winner of the United States and Ecuador on Tuesday, June 21 at the NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.