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A goal either side of half-time by Sergio Aguero, and a third goal from Angel di Maria just after the hour mark allowed hosts Argentina to seal easy passage into the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Monday night.
Argentina hosting invitees Costa Rica in a do or die game at the Mario Alberto Kempes Stadium in Cordoba came into this game knowing a draw may not be enough to see them make it to the last eight of the Copa America. After disappointing draws in their opening two fixtures against Bolivia and Colombia, Argentina were third in Group A behind already qualified Colombia and their opposition tonight Costa Rica, who had a point more.
A draw for Costa Rica would have been enough to see them through, and they approached the first half in predictable fashion putting men behind the ball and rarely venturing forward. They had only one shot to show for their first half efforts, but till the 45th minute it didn't really matter with the score locked at 0-0.
Argentina made wholesale changes to their line-up for this game, benching their preferred attackers Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi while also dropping the midfield duo of Ever Banega and Esteban Cambiasso. Instead, they featured an even more attacking line-up with Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero getting their first starts of the tournament alongside Lionel Messi with Gonzalo Higuain also getting a rare game in a 4-man all out attacking line-up. Javier Mascherano had Fernando Gago for company in a light weight midfield.
There were chances aplenty for Argentina in the first half with Gonzalo Higuain taking a pot shot as early as the 1st minute, but failing to hit the target. Center-back Nicolas Burdisso had an exciting half, having a shot saved in the first 10 minutes before hitting the crossbar in the 25th. The goal Argentina so richly deserved finally came in time added on at the end of the first half as Aguero's shot from inside a crowded penalty area took a deflection on its way past Leonel Moreira in goal.
Aguero added a second just 8 minutes into the second half after a through ball by Messi put him clear on goal. Angel di Maria made the game safe on 63 minutes, latching on to another clever Messi pass to put the result beyond doubt and send Argentina into the quarter-finals.
Argentina were unlucky not to add to the scoreline with Higuain having an excellent shout for a penalty and substitute Lavezzi hitting the crossbar. They were, however, delighted at having picked up their first win of the competition.
Argentina moved onto 5 points as a result of their win and will now face whichever team finishes 2nd in Group C in their quarter-final. That match will be played in Santa Fe. Colombia, the Group A toppers, will head to Cordoba where they will meet the best of the third placed finishers.
Copa America action continues tomorrow with Chile taking on Peru and Uruguay battling Mexico. Chile and Peru are currently locked for top spot with 4 points each, while Uruguay have 2 points from as many games. Gold Cup winners Mexico, who have brought a depleted side for the Copa America, are bottom of the pile with no points. A 'sporting draw' between Chile and Peru would see them both qualify, but with Argentina waiting in the wings for whoever finishes second (currently Peru), chances are both teams are likely to play for a win. Uruguay and Mexico are both still very much in contention with the former capable of earning a direct qualifying spot, while the latter could go through as one of the third placed teams with a big win.
Argentina: Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Milito, Javier Zanetti, Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero (Ezequiel Lavezzi 84'), Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria (Lucas Rodrigo Biglia 79'), Gonzalo Higuain(Javier Pastore 79')
Costa Rica: Leonel Moreira, Johnny Acosta, Oscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo (Randall Brenes 45'), Jose Cubero, Cesar Elizondo (Luis Miguel Valle 56'), Pedro Leal, Heiner Mora, Jose Salvatierra, Josue Martinez (Diego Madrigal 45'), Joel Campbell
Final Score: Argentina 3-0 Costa Rica (Aguero 45', 53', Di Maria 63')
File Photograph Copyright:Â·Ryu Voelkel
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