Lionel Messi, with a free kick and two assists, advanced to the Copa America semifinals against Colombia after beating Ecuador 3-0 on Saturday.
Messi missed a golden opportunity in the first half but set up Rodrigo de Paul five minutes before half-time and then did the same five minutes earlier for Lotto Martinez to give Argentina the victory they deserved.
The Barcelona player then had a second free kick in the tournament during the stoppage and the scoreline was more convincing than the performance.
It was his 76th goal for Argentina, taking him to one of Perel’s South American records.
“I’ve always said that individual awards are secondary, we’re here for something else,” Messi said. “We have a purpose and we are focused on it.”
“It was a tough match, we know how tough the opponents can be. The important thing is we took one more step.”
Argentina were unbeaten in 1 of 17 games and their result should have come earlier than expected.
Martinez and German Pajela both arrived early in the first 20 minutes and Hernan Galinze saved a great double with a 1-0 win over Nicolas Gonzalez.
More surprisingly, Messi missed the best chance of the game when he went through the keeper but saw his shot come back from the post.
But five minutes before half-time, when the Ecuadorian goalkeeper got stuck after tackling outside the box, the D-striker fed Paul, who stroked the ball into the net for his first international goal in 25 overs. .
Messi ended a five-minute clinical finish to Martinez after he was shown a red card after stopping Piero Hinkapi Angel Di Maria before jumping from a free kick during the stoppage.
Underdogs Ecuador have gone unbeaten in their last six games but have the potential to score against a team that wants to win their first Copa America since 1993.
Ener Valencia in particular will annoy themselves by sending two shiny headers from close range during the first 45 minutes.
The result means Colombia face Colombia in the second semi-final of the Copa America on Tuesday, having beaten Uruguay on penalties the day before.
Brazil played Peru in the first semifinal 24 hours ago.