Copa América Centenario

Messi Remains to Be a Good Choice As Starter

A dime-piece assist for Lionel Messi—and a goal? Yeah, you might want to put him in.

by Liam Daniel Pierce
Jun 20 2016, 1:50pm

Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring early after a peach of a ball from Leo Messi . #ARGvVEN #MyCopaColors
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 18, 2016

This Lionel Messi guy might be a good idea to put in as a starter, it turns out. After suffering a back injury at the beginning of Copa America, there were concerns that the (disputably?) best player in the history of existence would be absent from the 100-year anniversary of South America's big tournament in the US. But he started to warm up, and goddamn—we're calculating his heat in degrees Kelvin right now.

Last week Messi rolled out a hat trick in 19 minutes coming off the bench. And tonight? Tonight he's been involved in a series of stunning plays, including the above-assist to Gonzalo Higuain. It's like he was picking out individual laces on his shoe.

Higuain was benefitting from Messi's goal magic—so much so—that he took this one solo off of an easy pick:

Gonzalo Higuain's second of the night inside 30 minutes gives Argentina a 2-goal cushion. #ARGvVEN #MyCopaColors
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 18, 2016

And then, after playing enough of a background character, Messi wanted to put one in himself, and goddamn, was it pretty. A give and go for a wide open shot on the keeper. Nothing can be more demoralizing than staring Messi down in the face with an 8-yard-wide net behind you.

Leo Messi moves level with Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer. #ARGvVEN #MyCopaColors
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2016

What was Venezuela (did I mention there was a team trying to play against Argentina?) bringing to the table?

Is this the worst Panenka penalty attempt ever? #ARGvVEN #MyCopaColors
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 19, 2016

Gotta stop watering down that sauce, Venezuela. The score ended up 4-1 after a Venezuela nudged the ball in, but one goal against four? Onward and upward for Argentina. Good luck against the USMNT in the next round, Messi. (Author nervously cries into a red, white, and blue pillow.)