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Copa America

Argentina bails out Messi in shootout to advance past Ecuador in Copa América thriller

Safid Deen

Lionel Messi needed his Argentine teammates to bail him out, and the world champions delivered for their all-time captain.

Messi missed his penalty kick in a shootout, but Argentina outlasted Ecuador 1-1 (4-2 in penalty kicks) in their Copa America quarterfinal match Thursday night in front of 69,456 people at NRG Stadium in Houston to advance to the semifinal.

Messi walked up with the ball in his hand and lined up Argentina’s first kick to set the tone. And he missed it. His chip shot down the middle was ideal, but the ball tipped the crossbar and went over the net. Messi said he attempted the kick in that fashion, after consulting with Argentina’s two goalies.

"A lot of anger, a lot of anger," Messi said of his penalty miss. "I just wanted to touch it and it went high."

The touch from Messi’s legendary left foot was just off. He wasn’t as sharp as he’s known to be, and needed to be in the moment. Perhaps, a residual effect from missing a game and rehabilitating a right groin/adductor injury in the past nine days.

Messi spoiled a chance to deliver another legendary moment, and elevate Messi Mania to another height for his legion of Argentine fans and followers all over the world.

But Messi’s miss didn’t discourage the Argentine national team, the defending Copa America 2021 and World Cup 2022 champions. They’ve been in much more adverse situations before, and they delivered for Messi. After all, Messi was the reason Argentina led for much of the match.

Julian Alvarez, Alexis Mac Allister, Gonzalo Montiel and Nicolás Otamendi scored in the penalty round, while Argentina’s fierce and outlandishly celebrating goalkeeper Dibu Martinez shut the door on Ecuador.

The Argentinians celebrated in song and dance, while Ecuador woefully accepted defeat after their thrilling comeback. Argentina will meet the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between Venezuela and Canada on July 9.

"The team feels blind confidence in their goalkeeper and for us it is fundamental. Even if Leo failed, the team knew that something positive was going to happen," Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni said of the victory.

Ecuador’s Kevin Rodríguez connected with a header in the lower left corner in stoppage time to shock Argentina and tie the match at 1 in the 91st minute.

John Yeboah and Jordy Caicedo scored in the penalty shootout, while Caicedo missed a chance on goal in the closing minutes.

Ecuador’s Enner Valencia missed a golden opportunity to tie the match in the 62nd minute, but his poor form led to his penalty kick ricocheting off the left post.

"Our players gave it their all," Ecuador coach Félix Sánchez said. "We got the equalizer, but unfortunately we were eliminated in the shootout."

Before the game-tying goal, it appeared Argentina would easily navigate its way to the semifinals.

Messi made his mark with a corner kick near the net by defender Lisandro Martínez in the 35th minute. Messi’s kick from the right side was short of the goal area, but Alexis Mac Allister used his head to send the ball backward where Martínez was waiting to score.

Messi missed a right boot in the second half, his only shot of the match. He remains scoreless through three games during this Copa America, but had an assist in Argentina’s first match. He also became the Copa America record-holder for most minutes played in the tournament during the match.

Messi played the entire match, consulting with Scaloni on the sidelines about his playing time. It was his first game in nine days after Argentina’s 1-0 win against Chile on June 25 in New Jersey when he was first injured. He did not play in Argentina’s 2-0 win over Peru last Saturday in Miami to rest his groin, and returned as a full practice participant in the past two days.

We’ll see if Messi can pull through for his adoring and aspiring fans with a goal or two before Copa America is over.

Only two matches remain until Messi and Argentina can raise another trophy, and add another championship to their reigning soccer dynasty.

Here's how the Argentina-Ecuador match unfolded Thursday in Houston:

Argentina's Lisandro Martinez celebrates scoring his team's first goal at the 2024 Copa America tournament quarterfinal against Ecuador at NRG Stadium in Houston on July 4, 2024.

Argentina vs. Ecuador penalty shootout results

Lionel Messi and Ángel Mena missed in the first round. Nil-nil.

Julian Alvarez scored for Argentina, but Alan Minda was denied in the second. Argentina 1-0.

Alexis Mac Allister scores for Argentina, and John Yeboah scores for Ecuador. Argentina 2-1.

Gonzalo Montiel scores for Argentina, and Jordy Caicedo scores for Ecuador. Argentina 3-2.

Nicolás Otamendi wins it 4-2 on penalty kicks for Argentina to advance to the semifinals.

Argentina vs. Ecuador penalty shootout: Messi misses his shot

Lionel Messi walked up with the ball in his hand, lined up his first kick to set the tone. And he missed it.

Messi had a plan to chip it down the middle, but the ball hit the crossbar and went over the net.

Jordy Caicedo misses late shot: Argentina 1, Ecuador 1

Ecuador almost ended it, but Jordy Caicedo missed this chance.

We’re going to a penalty shootout to decide this match for a trip to the Copa America semifinals.

Ecuador shocks Argentina with late goal by Kevin Rodríguez: Argentina 1, Ecuador 1

This game isn’t over just yet, and penalty kicks could be on the horizon.

Ecuador’s Kevin Rodríguez connected with a header in the lower left corner in stoppage time to tie the match at 1.

This is a shocking turn of events for Argentina, just minutes away from a win and trip to the semifinals.

Messi misses right boot toward the net: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Messi took his first shot of the game, with his right foot instead of his left, but he kicked it right to Ecuador goalie Alexander Domínguez. Messi remains scoreless in Copa America play.

Lionel Messi sets Copa America minutes record: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Messi has set another record in his career: Most minutes played during Copa America. He set the record in the 66th minute, playing his 3,063rd minute all-time in the tournament.

Enner Valencia misses penalty kick: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Ecuador just missed a golden opportunity to tie this match with Enner Valencia missing a critical penalty kick off the left post.

Even with Argentine goalie Dibu Martinez guessing the wrong side of the net to defend, Argentina gets lucky.

A handball by Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul was the penalty.

Lautaro Martinez takes a swing, misses wide: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Lautaro Martinez, the leading goal scorer in Copa America, took a swing at a shot toward the net, but his kick was wide of the left post. Argentina hasn’t had many shots in this one, just the fourth coming in the 55th minute.

Messi takes hit at start of first half: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Messi appears OK, resetting his socks, and getting a hand up from a teammate as he endured a tackle from an Ecuador player in the 50th minute. However, Argentina’s Cristian Romero and Ecuador’s Moisés Caicedo are being tended to on the pitch after a collision.

Messi starts in the second half: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Lionel Messi, playing in his first game since a right groin/adductor injury, has started in the second half of the Ecuador match. It’s unclear how much Messi will play – if he’ll be an early exit as a substitute or play the distance. But he’s already left his mark in this contest.

Lisandro Martínez goal: Argentina 1, Ecuador 0

Lionel Messi delivered the corner kick, Alexis Mac Allister headed it backward, and Lisandro Martínez put it into the back of the net for Argentina’s 1-0 lead vs. Ecuador.

Messi might not get the assist, but his corner put Argentina in position for the early lead in the 35th minute.

Just a play earlier, Enzo Fernandez could only smile after his strike hit the Ecuadorian defender in front of him in the 34th minute.

Enzo Fernández misses header: Argentina 0, Ecuador 0

Argentina’s first shot of the match comes in the 27th minute, with Enzo Fernandez squaring up for a header, which sailed wide right outside the post.

Ecuador’s defense has been stifling during the opening minutes, crowding the space where Argentina loves to work the most.

Messi has several touches, but hasn’t been able to make his mark just yet.

Ecuador’s Jeremy Sarmiento misses shot on goal: Argentina 0, Ecuador 0

Ecuador’s Jeremy Sarmiento didn’t get enough of a touch, but it was enough to challenge Argentina. Still, goalie Dibu Martinez shined brightly again with a save, just his seventh in Copa America after limited shots on goal in the club’s group-stage matches.

Ecuador gets an early chance toward net: Argentina 0, Ecuador 0

Argentine goalie Dibu Martinez made the stop, but their defense was tested during this push by Ecuador early.

Messi waves to family in the stands

Lionel Messi with a wave toward his family in the stands before tonight’s match.

Messi and his family arrive for Ecuador match

As Messi walked off the team bus, his family also entered NRG Stadium in Houston for tonight’s match.

Messi in Argentina’s starting lineup vs. Ecuador

ESPN Argentina with the early lineup, featuring Messi as a starter, before tonight’s game.

What time is Argentina vs. Ecuador Copa América match?

The Argentina and Ecuador match begins at 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. GALT and 8 p.m. ECT in Ecuador; 10 p.m. ART in Argentina).

How to watch Argentina vs. Ecuador on TV and live stream?

The Argentina vs. Ecuador match on Thursday will be broadcast by FOX (in English) and on Univision/TUDN (in Spanish).

FOX Sports will provide live streams for Copa América matches. Matches also can be streamed on FuboVix will provide a streaming option for Spanish-language broadcasts.

Argentina forward Lionel Messi plays during a Copa America match at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on June 20, 2024.

Is Messi playing tonight vs. Ecuador?

Messi’s playing time, in his return from injury, could be limited. It would be rash to push him for a full 90-minute match unless he wanted to play the entire match. But how much will Messi play?

Argentine news outlet TYCSports reported Thursday morning that Messi is in line to start the Ecuador match at after his performance in Wednesday’s practice.

"He finished yesterday's practice very well, and the captain feels good to start," TYCSports insider Gaston Edul reported before the game.

Argentina and Ecuador meet again in Copa América quarterfinals

Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 in the quarterfinals en route to the final of Copa América 2021. Messi scored on a free kick and had two assists in the victory – his score and second assist coming after the 84th minute.

What did Argentina’s coach say about Messi?

Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni said Wednesday he would speak to Messi before the club’s practice to determine how much he will play in the Ecuador match.

“I think it’s fair to wait until the last moment,” Scaloni said, referring to Messi going through another practice Wednesday. “I think it’s fair that he should take is time and train as much as possible. So after the training, rather, before, I will talk to him and then we will make the decision.”

How has Messi progressed from injury?

Messi participated in his second full practice with his Argentine teammates in Houston on Wednesday night, one day after his first. He was a limited practice participant on Monday. Messi worked solely with a trainer since suffering the injury before his return to practice.

How has Messi performed during Copa América?

Messi had an assist in Argentina’s 2-0 win in their Copa América opener against Canada but is scoreless through two matches.

Who does Argentina/Ecuador winner face in Copa América semifinal?

The Argentina/Ecuador winner advances to a semifinal match against the winner of Friday’s Venezuela/Canada match. The semifinal will be played July 9 inside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

When are the other Copa América quarterfinal matches?

Along with the Argentina-Ecuador match Thursday, the Copa América quarterfinals continue with one match Friday and conclude with two matches Saturday.

  • Venezuela and Canada will meet on Friday at 9 p.m. ET inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
  • Colombia and Panama will play on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET inside State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
  • Uruguay and Brazil meet on Saturday at 9 p.m. inside Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

All of the matches will be broadcast on FS1 in English, Univision/TUDN in Spanish.

Odds to win 2024 Copa America

Argentina is the favorite to win the 2024 Copa América, according to BetMGM soccer odds. Looking to wager? Check out the best mobile sports betting apps offering 2024 sports betting promos. Here are the odds as of Thursday:

  • Argentina (+125)
  • Brazil (+333)
  • Colombia (+550)
  • Uruguay (+550)
  • Venezuela (+2500)
  • Ecuador (+3300)
  • Canada (+4000)
  • Panama (+10000)

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