Foxborough, MA- Argentina capitalized on key turnovers and executed beautiful passing to beat Venezuela on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium by a 4-1 margin. Gonzalo Higuain scored an early double and Lionel Messi shined all night to lead La Albiceleste to the semifinals, where the team will face the hosts, United States.
Messi's first start of the tournament did not fail to disappoint. The Argentine maestro delivered a cracking cross to Higuain from the right flank in the 8th minute, and the Napoli striker perfectly slid and shot the ball past Dani Hernandez and into the Venezuelan net.
Higuain earned a first-half brace twenty minutes later. Venezuela's Arquimedes Figuera attempted to pass the ball back to the keeper but Gonzalo intercepted the pass, rounded the keeper, and put it in the back of the net to give Argentina a 2-0 lead.
Rafael Dudamel's men would respond well to the second Argentine goal, narrowing the field and using West Brom striker Salomon Rondon as the focus of the attack. The big and agile striker hit the woodwork on a header in the 39th minute, while previously having two chances at goal in the minutes beforehand.
Venezuela's hard work appeared to have been paid off in the 44th minute when Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero took down a Venezuelan player in the box. Luis Seijas stepped up to the spot but his panenka attempt did not fool Romero, who stood and just calmly caught the ball in the middle of the goal.
The first half showed the greatest and worst attributes for Argentina. While their forwards were dominant in the final third, the midfield showed its flaws. The choice to start Augusto Fernandez over Lucas Biglia was not proven to be right in the first half, while the Argentine defense had trouble containing Rondon in the box.
Argentina came out with purpose in the second half, trying to put any La Vinotinto hopes to bed. Higuain almost had his third in the first minute of the half. Nicolas Gaitan dribbled through the flanks and laid it off to Gonzalo, but his shot got blocked off by Figuera at the crucial moment.
Put to Bed
Argentina's third goal finally came in the form of the Magisterial Magician. Messi finished off a nice sequence of passing by Higuain and Gaitan in the 60th minute, seemingly putting the score out of reach for Dudamel and his men.
Salomon Rondon's hard work would not go without result. The big West Brom striker scored a goal on a header in the 70th minute, giving Vinotinto one last possible push to get back into the match. Well, that hope did not last long.
Substitute Erik Lamela restored Argentina's three-goal lead one minute later, finishing off a nice sequence and slotting the ball past Hernandez.
The victory in Foxborough on Saturday night gives Argentina passage to the semifinals where they will face the hosts USA in Houston on Tuesday night.