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Messi, Argentina Survive Penalty Shootout Against Ecuador to Advance to Copa America Semifinals

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Lionel Messi and Argentina are moving forward in the Copa America—just barely.

Argentina defeated Ecuador 1-1 (4-2 on penalties) in their quarterfinal match on Thursday, advancing La Albiceleste to the tournament’s semifinals.

Ecuador dominated the early stages, causing the most trouble. Left-back Piero Hincapie posed a threat down the left flank with his speed and crosses, but Enner Valencia, Kendry Paez, and Angel Preciado couldn’t convert their chances.

Argentina, the reigning champions, struggled initially, unable to maintain possession and forced to sit deeper. However, they gradually found their rhythm after the 25th minute. In typical fashion, Argentina absorbed the pressure and took the lead first. In the 35th minute, Messi’s inswinging corner was tipped up by Alexis Mac Allister and headed home by center-back Lisandro Martinez, marking his first international goal.

Argentina led 1-0 at halftime, but Ecuador had the next best chance. Ecuador was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute after a VAR check ruled a handball against Argentina in the penalty box. Valencia stepped up but, despite sending Emi Martinez the wrong way, his soft shot hit the left post and went wide.

Just when it seemed Argentina would secure the win, Ecuador equalized in the second minute of added time. Kevin Rodriguez scored the goal, which took a deflection past Martinez.

The match went straight to penalties as there is no extra time in the tournament. Messi’s first attempt, a Panenka, hit the crossbar. Ecuador initially had the advantage but missed their next two attempts, with Martinez making crucial saves. Julian Alvarez, Mac Allister, Gonzalo Montiel, and Nicolas Otamendi converted their penalties for Argentina, securing the victory after Messi’s miss.

This result ends Ecuador’s impressive tournament run, which included preventing Mexico from advancing through the group stage. Otherwise, El Tri would have been Argentina’s opponent in this round.

Argentina will now face either Venezuela or Canada in the semifinal on Tuesday, July 9, at 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT.