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Messi and Di Maria star as Argentina annihilate Paraguay to book Copa America final spot

Marcos Rojo, Sergio Aguero, Javier Pastore and Gonzalo Higuain were also among the goals as Tata Martino’s men sealed a date with hosts Chile.

Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero.
Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero.
Image: Ricardo Mazalan

ARGENTINA MOVED A step closer to ending a 22-year major trophy drought, reaching the Copa America final with a 6-1 win over Paraguay.

Gerardo Martino’s men were dominant and an Angel Di Maria brace early in the second half helped them secure their win in Concepcion.

Lionel Messi had set up first-half goals for Marcos Rojo and Javier Pastore, only for Lucas Barrios to give Paraguay hope. But Pastore and Messi continued running the show in the second half as Di Maria ensured Argentina’s place in Saturday’s decider against Chile.

Sergio Aguero headed in a fifth and the man who replaced him immediately – Gonzalo Higuain – also struck after a pass from Messi, who completed the pass laying down.

Taking on Martino’s former team, Argentina started well and built on that – but victory only looked safe after the pair of goals early in the second half. Messi was at the heart of most of their attacking moves, assisting three goals and playing a huge part in two others. In that form, the Barcelona superstar may yet lead Argentina to their first major title since the 1993 Copa America.

Martino’s side were rewarded for their promising start with the opener 15 minutes in. Messi’s set-piece from the left eventually fell to Rojo, who side-footed in a simple finish from close range.
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Argentina perhaps should have doubled their lead eight minutes later. Messi was at the centre of the attack again as he ran at the Paraguay defence before finding Pastore, who opted to take a touch before seeing his shot saved by Justo Villar.

The duo would combine to make it 2-0 for Argentina in the 27th minute. Messi picked out Pastore’s well-angled run and the Paris Saint-Germain man found the bottom corner with a fine finish.
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Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz was forced into two substitutions before the half-hour mark, and one of his introductions had the desired impact. Bruno Valdez intercepted an Argentine clearance and headed into the path of Barrios, who buried his chance from the edge of the area.
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Paraguay’s hopes of another comeback – they came from behind in three of their four games at the tournament – were dealt a huge blow early in the second half. It was Pastore’s time to turn provider as he slid Di Maria through and the Manchester United attacker finished clinically into the bottom corner.

Messi’s run soon after led to a five-on-one situation that Argentina capitalised on when Di Maria put away a rebound following Pastore being denied.
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And Martino’s side added a fifth through an Aguero header and Higuain also scored as they saw out a huge victory.
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