Copa America 2021: Lionel Messi’s twin strike inspires Argentina to top Group A

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Lionel Messi tries to evade the Bolivian defenders in their Copa American 2021 encounter.

Rio de Janeiro: Lionel Messi marked his 148th international appearance with a brace as Argentina beat Bolivia 4-1 in their final Group A round-robin encounter at the ongoing Copa America 2021 and set up a quarterfinal date with Ecuador.

Elsewhere, Uruguay beat Paraguay to go into the Round of 8 as group runners-up with seven points from four games — three behind leaders Argentina. In the next round, Uruguay will face Colombia while Brazil face Chile in one of the cracking encounters in the tournament. 

Peru will face off Paraguay for a place in the semis. Alejandro Gomez volleyed in an early lead for Argentina in the sixth minutes, thanks to a splendid Messi assist. The Barcelona star was in action again three minutes after the half-hour mark to double the lead. 

He got his second nine minutes later extending his international tally to 75. Although Erwin Saveedra pulled a goal back for Bolivia, Lautaro Martinez’s strike in the 65th minute gave Argentina back their three-goal cushion that stayed on till the end.

Elsewhere, Edinson Cavani’s lone goal gave Uruguay their second win of the competition. Uruguay needed to avoid defeat to ensure they would not face Group B winners Brazil in the quarters. The 15-time Copa winners could have gone ahead early in the match had Cavani not headed wide in the third minute and Giorgian De Arrascaeta not grazed the post moments later.

However, La Celeste didn’t have to wait much as they won a penalty in the 21st minute following a clumsy challenge from Angel Romero. The Manchester United star stepped up and scored from the spot past Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva. However, Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off during the match casting serious doubts over his availability in the quarterfinals.

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