Argentina seized complete control against the USA in the Copa America semifinals from the opening whistle, and rolled to a 4-0 rout at Houston's NRG Stadium.
Argentina was aiming to reach its third straight major final (2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa America), continuing its quest to end a 23-year trophy drought on the senior international stage, and it did so in dominating fashion, overwhelming the USA and scoring mere minutes into each half. Lionel Messi scored on an incredible free kick, Gonzalo Higuain scored twice and Ezequiel Lavezzi scored three minutes in during the victory.
La Albiceleste got out to its dream start, with Lavezzi lofting a header over Brad Guzan from close range after a short corner play resulted in Messi chipping over the top:
Messi then scored on an unbelievable free kick. 25 yards from goal, Messi picked out the upper corner, leaving Guzan with no chance and extending the lead to 2-0. The goal was his 55th with Argentina, setting a new record and separating himself from Gabriel Batistuta, whom he tied in the semifinal against Venezuela:
Gonzalo Higuain, fresh off a two-goal game vs. Venezuela, made it 3-0 five minutes into the second half. Lavezzi put it on a platter for Higuain, who snuck behind the U.S. back line. Guzan made the initial save, but Higuain stabbed home the rebound to find the back of the net:
Lavezzi had to leave the game just after the hour mark after a frightening incident, when he leaped over the ad boards on the sideline and fell awkwardly. He walked off, holding his arm, and was replaced by Erik Lamela.
Higuain put the exclamation point on the rout minutes before the final whistle, hitting first-time into an empty net after Messi unselfishly set him up:
The U.S. was playing without three suspended starters, with Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya all ruled out because of cards. Nicolas Gaitan was ineligible for Argentina, which will play either Chile or Colombia in Sunday's final at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The USA will play the loser of Chile-Colombia in Saturday's third-place match in Glendale, Arizona.