Seattle, Wa. – By the time Lionel Messi checked into Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Bolivia the match was over as a contest, his deputies had seen to that with three goals in the first half to demoralize and ultimately defeat Bolivia at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in front 45,753 Messi worshiping fans on Tuesday night.
The crowd roared when Messi emerged from the locker room at the conclusion of the halftime intermission and jogged across the field to report to the 4th official.
In truth, they had been cheering for Messi all evening. Erik Lamela and Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 13th and 15th minutes ending the game as a contest when it had barely gotten started. Coming into the game at 2-0-0 Argentina was already through to the quarterfinals, while at 0-0-2 Bolivia was merely through.
With that cushion, Gerardo rested Messi, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, but if the coach didn’t need his team’s inspirational leader tonight, well the fans did. Messi! Messi! Messi!
Afterward, the coach sounded a practical note. “People pay all over the world to see him,” Martino said through a translator at his postgame press conference. “He has that obligation to play.”
So, Martino gave the people what they demanded. And from that point onward the whole point of the game became – could Messi give the public what it wanted?
If that answer was a goal then the answer was no, but the magic of Messi cannot be reduced to mere numbers. There is no statistic for Messi’s dribbling run through and around the right side of Bolivia’s defense midway through the second half. And what metric could be possibly be employed to determine the value of watching Messi, his back to the end line as he nutmegged Bolivia’s keeper; and who cared if he was flagged offside?
Messi showed his angry side late in the match when he went forehead to forehead with Bolivia’s Jhasmani Campos after Campos has chopped him down with a scything tackle. Argentina defender Facundo Roncaglia stepped in to protect Messi but Campos got in one last shove.
Then it was over and with the result, the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals were set. Here are the matchups.
Thursday – June 16, 2016
CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.)
Game 25: USA (1A) vs. Ecuador (2B) — 9:30 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN
Friday – June 17, 2016
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Game 26: Colombia (2A) vs. Peru (1B) — 8 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN
Saturday – June 18, 2016
Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Game 27: Argentina (1D) vs. Venezuela (2C) — 7 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN
Saturday – June 18, 2016
Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Game 28: Mexico (1C) vs. Chile (2D) — 10 p.m. ET | FX, Univision, UDN