Playing in front of an enthusiastic 45,000-plus crowd at CenturyLink Field, Argentina scored twice in a two-minute span early to put Bolivia behind and spent the rest of this Group D match entertaining the crowd in a 3-0 win.
Argentina will take on Venezuela on Saturday in the quarterfinals and the winner will face the winner of Thursday’s United States-Equador match in the semifinals next Tuesday. The U.S.-Equador match will be played at CenturyLink Field.
Bolivia, which was eliminated from advancing out of the group before the match started with two earlier losses, pressured Argentina to start. However, the world-class talent in the blue-and-white striped jerseys shined.
A 24-yard free kick in the 12th minute kick-started the scoring. Forward Erik Lamela, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, scored when his kick hit a jumping Bolivia player and deflected past the goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, Argentina made it 2-0 with a flourish. Defender Facundo Roncaglia’s run down the right side set up a cross for forward Gonzalo Higuain, who delivered a header shot that was saved by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe. However, Lampe didn’t control the rebound, which went right to Ezequiel Lavezzi for a volley shot and goal.
The pace of play was most certainly Argentina’s and it resulted in the third goal of the first half. In the 33rd minute, Lavezzi’s run down the right side allowed him to hit a hard cross into the penalty area. There, Victor Cuesta stuck his foot out to deflect the ball past Lampe for the marker.
Superstar forward Lionel Messi, who has been nursing a back injury, got into the match in the second half and delivered some excitement for the crowd. During quiet moments in the first half, the crowd chanted “Messi!” “Messi!” “Messi!”
A free kick in the 61st minute brought the crowd to its feet with Messi standing over the ball 25 yards from goal. His shot was good, but just wide of the upper left corner, resulting in a loud groan, then cheer from the crowd.
Most of the second half featured Argentina footwork and ball control — twice by Messi against hapless defenders — against a Bolivia squad that chased for a chance to get onto the scoreboard.