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Argentina rolls past Bolivia 3-0 to win Copa America group

Wednesday, Jun 15, 2016,11:55 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Seattle | By the time Lionel Messi checked in at halftime, Erik Lamela, Ezequiel Lavezzi and the rest of his teammates had Argentina well on its way to the top spot in Group D of the Copa America. Lamela and Lavezzi scored two minutes apart early in the first half, Victor Cuesta scored his first international goal later in the half and Argentina dominated Bolivia 3-0 to be the only team in the entire tournament to win all three group games.

Messi subbed on at the beginning of the second half for his most extensive game action since Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-0 to win the Copa del Rey on May 22.

In the time since, Messi suffered a back injury, testified in his tax fraud trial in Spain and scored a hat trick off the bench in a 5-0 win over Panama last week.

But the goals came from his teammates as Argentina clinched a matchup with Venezuela in the quarterfinals. And all that dominance came with Messi relaxing on the bench, hearing his name chanted by the crowd throughout the first half as they eagerly anticipated the chance to see the best player of this generation coming off a memorable reserve performance just a few days earlier against Panama.

People want to see him. People pay all over the world to see him and he has to deal with that, Argentina manager Gerardo Martino said through an interpreter. Sometimes he has to play and sometimes he has to be on the bench but he has that obligation to follow through for the fans who are paying to be there. He has to live with that.

Argentina is in search of its first major international championship since winning the Copa America in 1993. Bolivia last beat Argentina in 2009, but that victory came at 12,000 feet at home in La Paz. At sea level in Seattle, the Bolivians stood no chance.

The closest Messi came to finding the net was a free kick from 30 yards early in the second half that teased the far post but didn’t curl enough. Bolivia’s Diego Bejarano was Messi’s shadow, ignoring anyone else in white with the ball and focusing just on No. 10.

Messi’s best moment came in the 77th minute when he was flagged for offside, but continued the play long enough to nutmeg Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Lampe as he dribbled around the penalty area.

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