Messi breaks goalscoring record as Argentina beats USA to reach Copa America final
Gerardo Martino's side ran out 4-0 winners to book their place in the final, where they will face either Chile or Colombia at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday.
The 2014 World Cup runners-up have now scored 18 goals in their five games in this year’s tournament.
Lionel Messi entered the record books once again as he scored a stunning free-kick just after the half-hour mark to make it 2-0.
In the process he became Argentina's all-time top scorer on 55 goals, overtaking the legendary Gabriel Batistuta.
It has taken the Barcelona star 112 caps to set the new record after scoring his 54th goal in the 4-1 quarter-final win over Venezuela.
However, Gabriel Batistuta had a much better goal ratio at international level – scoring his 54 goals in 78 appearances for Argentina. This included the former Fiorentina hero scoring five goals at the 1998 World Cup, and he still remains the only player to score hat-tricks at two different World Cups.
In comparison, Messi has five goals in 15 World Cup games. This Copa America has certainly been Messi's best international tournament despite starting off on the substitute's bench in the group stage due to fitness issues. He now has five goals in this summer's tournament, one behind leading goalscorer Eduardo Vargas of Chile. Messi had previously only ever scored three Copa America goals.
Gerardo Martino finally appears to be getting the best out of Messi after the impression that managers didn't utilize the 28-year-old well at international level. Martino was actually in charge of Barcelona for the 2013-14 season – the last manager to fail to win the La Liga title at Camp Nou.
Messi has won everything at club level but Sunday's final presents him with the opportunity to win something with the Argentina senior team for the first time – and an opportunity for Argentina to win a major trophy for the first time since 1993.
Gabriel Batistuta was part of the Argentina team that won that Copa America in 1993, and two years prior in 1991 as well. They also won the Confederations Cup in between. Domestically though, his only real successes were the Serie A title with AS Roma in 2000-01 and the Coppa Italia in 1995-96. After spending only one season each with River Plate and Boca Juniors as a youngster, he spent nine with Fiorentina, the team that brought him to Europe. During that time he rejected two opportunities to join English Premier League giants Manchester United due to his love for the club and the city.
Chile face Colombia in tomorrow morning's second semi-final. Chile ran out 7-0 winners over Mexico in the quarter-finals and now have the opportunity to set up a rematch of last year's final, which they won on penalties. Lionel Messi will be seeking revenge and hoping to get his hands on the trophy this time around.
Having scored freely in the run-up to the final, Argentina have every reason to be confident of winning their first major trophy for over two decades. Argentina were 2-1 winners against Chile in their opening game at this year's Copa America.