Only victory in Copa America Centenario will now do for Argentina says coach Gerardo Martino

Lionel Messi scored and provided two assists in their 4-0 semi-final win over the United States to set up a final meeting with either Colombia or Chile

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 1:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 1:12pm

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said his side must now go on to win the Copa America Centenario after they edged closer to ending their nation’s 23-year wait for a major title.

Martino was a happy man after watching his team destroy the United States 4-0 with a sparkling performance at Houston’s NRG Stadium to clinch their place in a third final in as many years.

But despite the plaudits for his team’s performance in the tournament, Martino said the only measure of the side’s success would be outright victory in Sunday’s final in East Rutherford.

“Our main concern was to win the game today, so that we could get back to where we were a year ago and two years ago,” said Martino, referring to Argentina’s place in the 2015 Copa America final and 2014 World Cup final.

Argentina lost both of those finals in agonising fashion, suffering an extra time defeat to Germany in the World Cup final and losing on penalties against hosts Chile in Santiago last year.

The bitter memory of those twin defeats is driving Argentina’s players towards Sunday’s finale at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Martino said his team would ultimately be judged would depend on whether they defeat either Colombia or Chile, who play in Wednesday’s second semi-final.

“We will know next Sunday. How we are judged will depend exclusively on the outcome of the final,” Martino said.

Martino meanwhile saluted the achievement of captain Lionel Messi, who lit up the semi-final with a sumptuous free kick while creating two more goals for Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain.

Messi’s first half strike saw him take sole possession of Argentina’s all-time scoring record, with 55 goals, one clear of previous record-holder Gabriel Batistuta who has 54.

“I’m very happy for him,” Martino said.

“I’m happy that he’s done it here at the Copa America. It is great that the best player in the world is the leading scorer of the Argentina national team.”