Lionel Messi passed Javier Mascherano as Argentina’s most capped international on Monday and scored twice as they beat Bolivia 4-1 to set up a Copa America quarter-final against Ecuador.
Messi was in fine form on his 148th appearance for Argentina and it was his sublime pass that set up Alejandro Gomez to volley home the opening goal after five minutes in Cuiaba.
Barcelona forward Messi doubled their lead from the penalty spot just after the half-hour mark and then made it 3-0 shortly before half-time when he ran on to a through ball from Sergio Aguero and lobbed Carlos Lampe.
Bolivia, who had lost their previous 11 Copa America matches, made life more difficult for themselves by repeatedly giving up possession in their own half.
However, they improved after the break and surprised Argentina on the hour when Erwin Saavedra swept home a cross from the right to make it 3-1.
Their slight hopes of a comeback were extinguished within five minutes as substitute Lautaro Martinez restored Argentina’s three-goal advantage within seconds of replacing Sergio Aguero.
Messi’s goals were his 74th and 75th for the national side and it could have been more but for another excellent performance by Lampe in the Bolivian goal.
The win extended Argentina’s unbeaten streak to 17 games, a run that goes back to the last Copa America when they lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. The result means Argentina will face Ecuador in Goiania in the last eight on Saturday.
In the other Group A fixture, an Edinson Cavani penalty sealed a 1-0 win for Uruguay against neighbours Paraguay, setting up a quarter-final tie against Colombia.
Despite the narrow scoreline, it was a dominant performance from Uruguay, who had the vast majority of chances but struggled to break down Paraguay’s stubborn defence in the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The best early chances fell to Giorgian de Arrascaeta, before Nahitan Nndez was bundled over in the box for an 18th minute penalty, dispatched by Cavani.
Uruguay will play Colombia in Brasilia in the last eight on Saturday. Host nation Brazil will take on Chile in Rio on Friday, while Paraguay play Peru in Goiania the same day.