RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Argentina set up a mouth-watering Copa America semi-final against hosts Brazil as goals from Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso secured a 2-0 quarter-final victory over Venezuela on Friday.
Martinez gave Argentina a 10th minute lead with a clever back flick between his legs and substitute Lo Celso secured the victory 16 minutes from time, pouncing on a mistake by Venezuela’s goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
It was another improved performance from Lionel Scaloni’s team who have grown into this tournament since beginning with a 2-0 defeat to Colombia and a 1-1 draw with Paraguay.
They are bidding to end a 26-year wait for a major international trophy.
“We’re Argentina and when there are knock-out matches, it makes us strong,” said Sergio Aguero, who had a hand in both goals.
“It won’t be easy in any way (against Brazil) but we’re Argentina and we’ll try to do justice to the jersey.”
Argentina started like a team determined to claim the prize at stake: A semi-final against their great rivals Brazil.
Martinez played in Aguero in the inside right channel after just three minutes but the Manchester City forward’s low cross-shot was blocked by goalkeeper Farinez’s foot.
Argentina should have gone in front when German Pezzella ran unmarked onto a flick-on at the back post but he seemed surprised and couldn’t react in time with the goal gaping.