USMNT to play Lionel Messi and Argentina in Copa America Centenario semifinals
The United States booked their place in the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario on Thursday when they edged Ecuador, 2-1. Ever since, they have been waiting to find out who they will face. But they always had a suspicion who their opponent would be and on Saturday, those suspicions were confirmed: It's going to be Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Argentina cruised past Venezuela, 4-1, at Gillette Stadium to move into the semifinals and set up a massive clash with the Americans on Tuesday at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX (9 p.m. ET, FS1).
Now the U.S. will be charged with stopping Messi, who has four goals in Copa America already to lead the tournament. Not to mention, Messi has done this despite not starting a match in the group stage as he recovered from a back injury. Now he's fit, having played all 90 minutes in the quarterfinal, and he looked deadly in that match, scoring a goal, assisting on another and forcing Venezuela to repeatedly foul him because that's all they could do to slow down the superstar.
Messi isn't the only one in fine form either. Gonzalo Higuain scored a brace in the quarterfinal victory, Javier Mascherano is commanding the midfield and their roster is so deep with talent that Segio Aguero is coming off the bench. Even the much-maligned Sergio Romero made a couple fine stops, including one on a penalty kick. Angel Di Maria, who was out the past two games, may be fit enough to play in the semifinals too, giving Argentina just one more world class player.
The U.S. will undoubtedly be feeling good. They've won three matches in a row to get to the semifinals, but they'll be facing a tall task. On top of going up against the best team in the tournament (maybe the world), they'll be without three key players due to suspension in Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya -- the U.S. are protesting Jones and Wood's suspensions -- and the crowd in Houston is expected to favor the Argentines.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has often said that he wants his team to be challenged by the best teams in the world in competitive matches. That's what he's going to get on Tuesday, facing arguably the best team in the world in a semifinal.
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