Argentina’s new all-time leading goalscorer Lionel Messi was lavished in praise by coach Gerardo Martino after the “best player in the world” guided last year’s Copa America runners-up to yet another final.
Messi, who overcame a back problem at the start of the tournament, surpassed Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s top scorer with his 55th international goal in Tuesday’s comprehensive 4-0 win over the United States in the semi-finals.
The captain’s fifth goal of the centenary tournament helped Argentina to back-to-back Copa America finals following last year’s penalty shoot-out loss to Chile.
Asked about Messi’s historic night in Houston, Martino told reporters: “It makes me very happy what he has done. Very pleased that has been in this Copa America.
Argentina – seeking to end their 23-year wait for a major title having lost the 2014 World Cup final before going down to Chile last year – outclassed USA at NRG Stadium.
Messi set up Ezequiel Lavezzi for the opening goal in the third minute before making history with a sublime free-kick just past the half-hour mark.
Gonzalo Higuain scored a second-half brace to silence the Americans, with Argentina now awaiting either Chile or Colombia in Sunday’s showpiece.