Argentina advances to Copa America semi-finals despite Messi’s missed penalty

Argentina advanced to the semi-finals of the Copa America on Thursday, defeating Ecuador 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made two crucial saves in the shootout to secure the victory for the reigning champions.

Lionel Messi, who started the game despite concerns about a hamstring injury, played a pivotal role in the opening goal. In the 35th minute, his corner kick was flicked on by Alexis Mac Allister, allowing Lisandro Martinez to head the ball into the net, giving Argentina a 1-0 lead.

Ecuador captain Enner Valencia missed a penalty, hitting the post, but Kevin Rodriguez scored a stoppage-time equalizer to force the shootout. Copa America knockout games do not include extra time, except for the final.

In the shootout, Messi hit the crossbar with Argentina’s first attempt, but Emiliano Martinez saved Ecuador’s first two spot-kicks. Nicolas Otamendi then scored the decisive penalty to secure Argentina’s place in the semi-finals, where they will face either Venezuela or Canada.