[SOCCER] Argentina beat Mexico by 3-0 on Wednesday and is set to play regional arch-rival Brazil on Sunday in the final of the Copa America in Venezuela.
"Now we have to win the final, which is the only chain link that is missing," Argentine coach Alfio Basile said after the game.
Of Wednesday's game, Basile noted that Argentina "once again won comfortably."
Mexican coach Hugo Sanchez could not help but agree.
"It is never nice to lose, but when the rival is better you have to admit it. They took more advantage of the circumstances and a distraction in the last minute of the first half changed the match," Sanchez said.
Argentina is the only team to have won all its matches in the Copa America, while Brazil lost to Mexico in its tournament debut. The side coached by Basile was billed as the main favourite even before the start of the tournament, ahead of a Brazilian side without star like Ronaldinho or Kaka who preferred to rest.
The first half of the semifinal game played in Puerto Ordaz was very balanced, with Mexico and Argentina sharing control of the ball.
However, just before half-time, Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze pushed the ball into the net after a free kick from Juan Roman Riquelme to which Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez responded late.
When Mexico returned to the pitch after the break it looked disoriented. Moreover, in the 60th minute young superstar Lionel Messi made it 2-0 for Argentina, with a superb chip over the rival keeper.
Only three minutes later, the referee ruled that Mexican captain Rafael Marquez brought down Carlos Tevez inside the box and awarded Argentina a disputed penalty. Riquelme converted the shot beautifully, Panenka style, to score his fifth goal of the tournament.
Basile praised Messi in particular for his goal.
"They should close down the stadium. It takes a genius to do that," the coach said of the Barcelona's star striker.
Defending champion Brazil eliminated Uruguay in the penalty shootout on Tuesday, after a 2-2 draw over 90 minutes, and will play Argentina Sunday in Maracaibo. Mexico and Uruguay are set to play for third place on Saturday in Caracas.
"We know we are very close to achieving what we want," Riquelme said after the semifinal.
However, he remained cautious ahead of the decisive game in the tournament.
"Brazil is a great team, it has great players who do things very well," he noted.
The final of the Copa America in Venezuela is set to be a replay of the one Brazil won against Argentina in the last edition of the tournament, in Peru 2004.
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