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Messi by the numbers on 28th birthday

Five Aside
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Baier: Argentina wake-up call

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 By Tim Vickery

Argentina thrash Paraguay to set up a fascinating final vs. Chile

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno reacts to Argentina's convincing 6-1 win over Paraguay, now advancing for their first Copa America final since 1993.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno completely disagrees with the SPI which currently favours Chile with a 63 percent chance of winning Copa America over Argentina.

CONCEPCION, Chile -- When Lucas Barrios lashed home with his left foot to score for Paraguay five minutes before halftime, the thought occurred that this semifinal versus Argentina might follow the same script as the rousing group match between the same sides a little more than two weeks ago.

In La Serena, Argentina had opened up a two-goal lead before Paraguay, who had at one stage seemed down and out, came roaring back to snatch a heroic draw. In Concepcion, once again Argentina went 2-0 up. Surely,...

Lionel Messi inspires Argentina vs. Paraguay and into Copa America final

Argentina captain Lionel Messi was delighted with his side's display as they destroyed Paraguay 6-1 to advance to the Copa America final.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno reacts to Argentina's convincing 6-1 win over Paraguay, now advancing for their first Copa America final since 1993.
The ESPN FC crew discuss Argentina's complete performance against Paraguay, led by Angel Di Maria's two goals and assist.

CONCEPCION, Chile -- Lionel Messi has not scored from open play for Argentina in a competitive game in more than a year. That's 945 minutes, since his second goal against Nigeria back in the final group game of the World Cup.

What's more, if you include friendlies but discount the two goals he scored in a 7-0 pummeling of Hong Kong -- ranked 164 by FIFA -- in October of last year, then the streak is even longer, surpassing 1,200 minutes. That's more than 13 games, more than a third of a club season.

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Messi guides Argentina to dominating victory over Paraguay

Lionel Messi has said he is excited to play in his third national team final, but insisted it will be very difficult.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno reacts to Argentina's convincing 6-1 win over Paraguay, now advancing for their first Copa America final since 1993.

CONCEPCION, Chile -- Three observations from Argentina's comprehensive 6-1 victory over Paraguay in the Copa America semifinals.

1. Argentina deliver a performance for the ages

It was a perfect performance that this Argentina generation had waited a decade for, and it means they are now on the brink of ending a 22-year trophy drought.

That all may come together in glorious fashion in Saturday's Copa America final, just as Gerardo Martino's side so breathtakingly came together here. Argentina...

Carlos Tevez should replace Sergio Aguero for Argentina vs. Paraguay

Argentina head coach Tata Martino believes his side have a clear vision for their Copa America semi-final with Paraguay
Take a "By The Numbers" look ahead of the Copa America semifinals, where Argentina aim to advance to a 27th Copa America final and Arturo Vidal hopes to lead Chile on a historic run.

It's already being described as one of the images of Argentina's Copa America, and could yet come to represent so much more.

Four years after Carlos Tevez missed the key penalty in the quarterfinal of the 2011 tournament against Paraguay, and after a long spell in which it was so often said that Lionel Messi ensured he was exiled from the squad, the Argentine public's two most popular players so joyously embraced after the former had now scored the victorious spot-kick at the same stage.

Friday...

 By Tim Vickery

Argentina can't afford to give Paraguay a chance in Copa America semifinal

Paraguay head coach Ramon Diaz says his side are confident heading into their Copa America semi-final with Argentina
Take a "By The Numbers" look ahead of the Copa America semifinals, where Argentina aim to advance to a 27th Copa America final and Arturo Vidal hopes to lead Chile on a historic run.

Tournaments are like time sped up. In the intensity of a few short days, teams can go through changes that might take years under normal circumstances. Think of Brazil in last year's World Cup, for example: They went into the competition on a run of nine straight victories, only to unravel under the pressure of playing at home.

The reverse can also happen. A team can suddenly come together during the course of the tournament and end up doing things it never believed possible before a ball had...

Goalies Sergio Romero, David Ospina define epic Copa America quarterfinal

The ESPN FC panel break down the Copa America match between Argentina and Colombia, and assert that the superior side won.

VINA DEL MAR, Chile -- This is a tale of two men born 18 months apart but united by their profession -- they stop goals -- and by their performance on a chilly Friday night in Chile, several long goal kicks away from the Pacific Ocean.

One has a famous brother, Diego, who is 6-foot-10 and plays for Argentina, albeit in basketball (and, previously, captained Florida State in the ACC). The other has a famous brother-in-law who also happens to be his Colombia teammate: James Rodriguez.

But there's...