Lautaro's late strike sends Argentina into Copa America quarter-finals


Lautaro Martínez
Lautaro Martínez #22 of Argentina celebrates after scoring a goal in the first half during an International Friendly between Guatemala and Argentina at Commanders Field on June 14, 2024 in Landover, Maryland.

Substitute Lautaro Martinez grabbed an 88th-minute winner as Argentina finally overcame Chile 1-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi hit the post for Argentina in the first half but the World Cup winners had their goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for keeping them on level terms before Lautaro’s late strike settled a pulsating clash in front of 82,000 fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

There were enough openings for the 15-times Copa America champions to get the breakthrough much earlier but a combination of poor finishing and an inspired performance from Chile’s 41-year-old goalkeeper Claudio Bravo left the score deadlocked.

The home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants — and venue for the 2026 World Cup final — was transformed into a home venue for Argentina and the expectant crowd saw Messi and company dictate proceedings in the early stages.

Messi’s strike partner Julian Alvarez forced Bravo into a save in the 22nd minute with a first-time shot after Nicolas Gonzalez had pulled the ball back from the byline.

Chile were doing a good job of neutralising Messi, closing him down with three players on occasions.

But the eight-times Ballon d’Or winner was inches away from an opener in the 36th minute with a shot from 25 yards which clipped the outside of the post.

Chile had twice left Argentina distraught with victories in the Copa America finals of 2015 and 2016, the latter at MetLife Stadium on a night when Messi reacted by briefly quitting the national side.

But while Chile proved stubborn, there is a real swagger about the world champions and a belief that they can always turn a game their way.

As Argentina piled on the pressure, Bravo did well after the break to parry out a blast at the near post from Nahuel Molina and then showed great reactions to push a fierce Nicolas Gonzalez drive against the bar.

Chile threatened on the counter and twice Argentina goalkeeper Martinez had to be at his best to deny drives from Rodrigo Echeverria.

The decisive moment came when Chile failed to clear an in-swinging corner from Messi and Lautaro Martinez pounced to grab the winner, confirmed after a lengthy VAR offside check.

Lautaro should have added a second after a breakaway from Angel Di Maria but in the end the solitary goal was enough to make it two wins out of two for the World Cup winners and book their place in the next round with a game to spare.

Canada triumph

In other Copa America action, Jonathan David scored the only goal as Canada reignited their campaign with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Peru in sweltering Kansas City.

Lille striker David -– who is reportedly being targeted by Manchester United and Chelsea -– once again demonstrated his eye for goal with a cool finish to secure all three points at Children’s Mercy Park Stadium.

A game played in scorching afternoon sunshine -– with on-pitch temperatures nudging towards 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) -– saw one of the two referee’s assistants collapse with apparent heat exhaustion just before half-time.

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