Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni hailed Lionel Messi as “the best player of all time” after scoring one goal and putting two others in the Copa America quarter-final 3-0 win over Ecuador.
Messi was the architect as La Albiceleste advanced to the Copa semi-finals, where they will meet Colombia on Tuesday in Brasilia.
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The six-time Ballon d’Or winner created Rodrigo De Paul for the Argentina opener in the 40th minute, before assisting Lautaro Martinez in the 85th minute.
Messi snatched a goal of his own in stoppage time with a free kick that took him to 76 international goals in his 149th appearance for La Albiceleste.
“Leo’s game, I honestly do not know if he will get tired of being praised every day,” Scaloni told a post-match press conference. “The best thing that can happen to us football fans is that the stars play up to whatever age they can and we enjoy it.
“Messi is even enjoyed by opponents when they play against him. We are talking about the best player of all time.
“It is difficult for a player to be at his level. “Neymar may be a similar player at some point, but because of what he has done, is doing and will continue to do, we need to remember who he is for.”
The victory extended Argentina’s unbeaten run under Scaloni to 18 games and gave them a plan at the end of their 28-year wait for the Copa America title.
La Albiceleste had three wins and a draw in the group stage, including two unconvincing 1-0 victories, and Scaloni was pleased with a stronger result.
“Anyone who thinks you can easily win every game 3-0 is wrong, especially in this Copa America, which has very different conditions,” he said.
“I do not know if this is the best time for the team. It is a case we like, it is decisive and we will try to move forward with absolute humility and work.”
Scaloni was wary of Colombia’s semifinal opponents who won 4-2 on penalties against Uruguay after a goalless draw to secure their place in the last four.
“I want to emphasize that in this Copa America any of these teams could push any team in the world,” he said.
“The level is quite high, it is not like before when the games were taken for granted that you would win.
“We have already faced Colombia in [World Cup] qualifiers. Now they will recover [Juan] Cuadrado, it will be difficult and like all races.
“We hope to play it with the same intensity and enthusiasm, we have a huge desire to play in the final.”