Argentina turned in a commanding second-half performance in Puerto Ordaz to surge past Mexico and into the final of the Copa America Venezuela 2007. Meeting them there in a repeat of the Peru 2004 final will be arch-rivals Brazil, the victors on that occasion.
|Argentina's Gabriel Heinze celebrates his goal over Mexico during their Copa America|
Thanks in no small part to their revered attacking trident of Juan Roman Riquelme, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, Alfio Basile's men continue to romp their way through the tournament, putting three past the Mexicans to take their goal tally to 16 in five games. Having conceded only a single goal prior to Wednesday evening's encounter, the El Tri rearguard was run ragged by the irrepressible Argentinians, who remain firmly on course to claim continental honours for the 15th time in their history.
It could, however, have been a different story had Mexico made their first-half pressure tell. But just as Roberto Abbondanzieri's goal was beginning to buckle, the Argentinians relieved the pressure, albeit from an unlikely source, Riquelme teeing up Gabriel Heinze from a short free-kick and the Manchester United defender firing home his second goal in the famous blue and white jersey.
Having made the breakthrough, Riquelme and company found their rhythm after the interval and treated the 42,000 crowd crammed into the Estadio Cachamay to a delightful 20-minute spell that killed off their opponents' challenge. Not surprisingly, it was Lionel Messi who provided the crowning moment, taking Tevez's sublime blind pass in his stride and lifting the ball effortlessly over the advancing Oswaldo Sanchez. It was a move that inspired fulsome praise from coach Basile: "Messi's goal made me feel like closing the stadium there and then. Only a genius can do something like that."
Riquelme then added a third after Rafael Marquez had upended Tevez, killing off any lingering hopes Hugo Sanchez's side had of getting back into the game. The spot-kick took the elegant playmaker's Venezuela 2007 haul to five, just one behind the competition's leading marskman Robinho, and there is little doubt that the duel between those two will be a key factor when South America's big two meet on Sunday in Maracaibo.
"We've beaten each and every one of our opponents and we're getting closer and closer to our objective," said the man who recently inspired Boca Juniors to the South American crown at club level. "Brazil are among the best and they've got some wonderful players. I'm sure we'll see a great game on Sunday."
So there you have it. The final everyone was hoping for has materialised. May the best team win.
Saturday, 14 July in Caracas
Mexico vs. Uruguay (21:05 GMT)
Sunday, 15 July in Maracaibo
Argentina vs. Brazil (21:05 GMT)