BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – It will be Lionel Messi’s Argentina against Neymar’s Brazil in the Copa América final on Saturday at Rio de Janeiro’s historic Maracana Stadium.
Argentina won their semifinal against Colombia 3-2 on penalties after three saves by goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. Regulation time ended 1-1 at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Tuesday.
“Emi is a phenomenon. We trusted him,” Messi said after the game. “It was a goal to play every game and now we will try to win this final.”
Argentina has not captured a major title since 1993 when they won the Copa América. On that occasion, the team eliminated Colombia on penalties 6-5 in the semifinal after a goalless draw.
Brazil beat Peru 1-0 on Monday to advance to the final. La Selecao have never lost a Copa América final at home and have won five of the six games so far.
Argentina took only seven minutes to open the scoring. Rodrigo de Paul found Messi in the penalty area with a deep pass. The star got his fifth assist of the tournament with a pass to Lautaro Martínez, who put the ball in the right corner past Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina.
A more aggressive Colombia, led by Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, hit the crossbar and the post in the second half before drawing in the 61st minute with Luis Díaz, who received the ball from the left of the Argentina area almost without an angle to beat Martínez . .
Argentina reacted in the 67th minute when Angel di Maria came in to replace Nico González. The winger created several opportunities, including one in the 80th minute that ended with Davinson Sánchez saving a shot from Lautaro Martínez on the goal line.
The last big chance in regulation time came when Messi hit Ospina’s right post in the 81st minute from close range.
Martínez saved the shots of Sánchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona in the penalty shoot-out. Messi converted his opportunity from the place and was one of the most joyous players of the celebrations. He is looking for his first major title with Argentina against the favorite Brazil.
Rodrigo de Paul missed his shot, but Leandro Paredes and Lautaro Martínez scored their chances for Argentina on penalties. Cuadrado and Miguel Borja scored from the point for Colombia.
With tears in his eyes, Martínez said after the game that he wanted to face the Brazilians in the final at the Maracana Stadium.
“It’s a matter of luck, today it was mine. Brazil is a great team, the favorite,” Martinez said. “But we have a great coach, we have the best player in the world and we will try to win him,” he said.
Colombia will play on Friday in the playoff for third place against Peru.