SEATTLE: Argentina maintained their 100 percent start to the Copa America Centenario with an easy win over Bolivia, as holders Chile booked their place in the quarterfinals on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The tournament favorites, already assured of a quarterfinals berth after wins over Chile and Panama, wrapped up their Group D campaign with one-sided win at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
The victory sees Argentina reach the last eight as group winners, handing them what in theory should be a straightforward assignment against Venezuela in Foxborough on Saturday.
The two-time world champions are determined to end a 23-year wait for a major title after suffering agonizing defeats in the finals of the 2014 World Cup and last year’s Copa America.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino elected to rest captain Lionel Messi after his devastating hat-trick performance against Panama.
But the Argentines were still far too strong for a feeble Bolivian team who were overwhelmed in a devastating opening period.
The match was effectively settled within the first quarter of an hour, with Tottenham Hotspur winger Erik Lamela opening the scoring with a deflected free-kick in the 13th minute.
Two minutes later China-based forward Ezequiel Lavezzi marked his comeback from injury with a goal, volleying home from close range after Gonzalo Higuain’s downward header.
Central defender Victor Cuesta made it 3-0 just after the half-hour, diverting home Lavezzi’s low cross in the 32nd minute.
With Messi coming on as a substitute at half-time, the game became a question of when or if the Barcelona superstar could grab a 54th international goal to equal Gabriel Batistuta’s longstanding scoring record.
However despite Argentina’s dominance of possession — which reached 87 percent at one point — Messi was unable to add to his tally.
Sanchez at the double
In Tuesday’s other game, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas both scored twice as Chile advanced with a 4-2 victory over Panama.
Chile recovered from the shock of falling behind to a Miguel Camargo goal after only five minutes, with Vargas scoring twice before Arsenal’s Sanchez grabbed a third in the Group D game.
Sanchez added his second in the 89th minute to complete the scoring.
Chile will now face Mexico in the pick of the quarterfinals on Saturday.
However they will be keen to iron out kinks in their defensive display which saw them concede two cheap goals.
The Chileans were given a scare early on when Camargo gave the Panamanians an early lead. Chile defender Gonzalo Jara was the culprit, giving away possession with a lazy pass out of defense that allowed Panama to pounce.
The ball arrived at Camargo’s feet and the midfielder let fly with a venomous low shot which Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo failed to grasp to leave Panama 1-0 up.
Chile hit back quickly however, leveling through Vargas, who tapped in from close range after Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo could only half block a Sanchez shot.
Two minutes before the break, Chile took the lead, Vargas heading in a cross from the left for 2-1.
Five minutes into the second half, it was 3-1. Vargas picked out Sanchez with a lofted pass from one side of the penalty area to the other and the Arsenal star showed great technique to lash a volley into the roof of the net.
Chile were jolted by a second Panama goal on 75 minutes, when Abdiel Arroyo headed in a free-kick from Ricardo Buitrago to make it 3-2 but finished on top to seal the win when Sanchez added his second.