Brasilia, July 7 (MNN) Argentina waltzed into the CONMEBOL Copa América 2021 final with a 3-2 win on penalties against Columbia after the match returned a 1-1 score at the end of normal time.
Argentina will now face Brazil in the final on Saturday.
Lionel Scaloni’s side began the game on front foot on Tuesday (local time) and created their first chance with just 3 minutes on the clock.
Lionel Messi set up Lautaro Martinez with a cross but the Inter man sent his effort narrowly wide.
A few minutes later, Messi was once again the creator as he turned Yerry Mina in the box and pulled a pass back to Martínez. This time Lautaro made no mistake to give Argentina an early lead, rewarding their proactive play.
Luis Díaz also scored a goal during the 90 minutes while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez was the star of the shootout with 3 saves.
Colombia, who had made a nervy start, were awoken by the goal and started to have an impact on the game. Juan Cuadrado arrived at the edge of the box to fire a low shot which Emiliano Martínez saved well.
From then on, Argentina sat back and allowed their opponents to control possession. This gave Reinaldo Rueda’s side confidence and they began to grow into the game.
Just after the half hour mark Colombia came very close to equalizing on two occasions.
First, Wilmar Barrios hit a powerful shot from range which deflected off the leg of Giovani Lo Celso and hit the post with Martinez helpless. Mina won the header from the resulting corner but his attempt also the wordwork, pinging off the top of the bar.
Rueda made three changes for the second half with Edwin Cardona and Yimmi Chará brought on to add invention to the attack and Frank Fabra to bring fresh attacking width from fullback. Miguel Borja was also introduced up front around the hour mark.
Colombia were now consistently on top with Argentina creating little. With that came the equalizer.
Edwin Cardona sent an excellent through ball for the pacey, impressive Luis Diaz to cut inside Pezzella and finish from a tight angle.
Following the equalizer Argentina began to again search for a goal and they pushed Colombia with los cafeteros still posing a threat on the break.
La Albiceleste came incredibly close to a winner. Second half substitute Ángel Di María rounded Ospina squared to Lautaro Martinez in the box but the retreating Barrios made an incredible, sliding goal line clearance to prevent a certain goal.
Moments later Messi hit a left footed striker which hit the post with Davinson Sanchez blocking the rebound.
Argentina came closest to a winner in the final minutes but Colombia were able to keep them at bay to set up a dramatic penalty shootout.
In the end Emiliano Martínez was the hero on the night for Argentina with the Villa goalkeeper saving 3 of the 5 penalties he faced.