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5 facts predicting an Argentine win vs the USMNT

Messi & co. favored by 5 enviable facts - USA vs Argentina Copa America semis

June 21, 2016
La Albiceleste have been dominant during the entire tournament with or without Lionel Messi. Here are some facts to consider ahead of the first Copa América Centenario semi-final on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.

Since Day 1, Argentina are portrayed as Copa America Centenario favorites. With their enviable crop of players in all areas of the field, everything seems to be in place for them to end their 23-year title drought.

Coach Gerardo Martino had to struggle with a number of injuries both before and during the tournament, but this has not kept La Albiceleste from delivering more than satisfying results. Now, with the final match just around the corner, Messi & Co. can rightfully dream of celebrating on the podium. But first, they have to deal with the United States. As the hosts, the latter possess home advantage but they still carry the tag of underdogs going into the semis. 

With Lionel Messi now fully fit and a squad filled with talent, let's have a look at Argentina's credentials to win the Copa América Centenario.

Killer offense, consistent defense

One of the tasks Martino needed to take care of prior to the tournament was the team's inconsistent form in defense. During the 2015 Copa América, Argentina's defense looked quite shaky, conceding late goals that harmed the team's reputation. This year, the team has shown impressive form on both ends of the pitch, but their defensive stats are quite outstanding. 

Argentina finished the Group Stage with only one goal allowed. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Gabriel Mercado, Ramiro Funes Mori and Nicolás Otamendi have gradually established themselves as a trustful unit. It would take precision or luck for Clint Dempsey and the rest of the USMNT crew to break down Argentina's backline. 

Likewise, the amount of talent the Argentines possess up front is scary. Gonzalo Higuaín, Nicolás Gaitán, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi have shared the team's offensive duties. Players such as Sergio "Kun" Agüero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Erik Lamela have also contributed in offloading the overload of attacking responsibilities that captain Lionel Messi used to carry alone. At the Copa America Centenario so far, La Albiceleste has racked up 14 goals -- as many as reigning champions Chile who totally toyed with Mexico in the quarter-finals. At long last, Argentina looks like a solid unit, and not a one-man show like years ago.

La Albiceleste may have finally found the much-needed balance to keep themselves as contenders with or without their brightest star.

Third major tournament final loading? Stuff of greatness!

It's true, Argentina hasn't won any major trophy since 1993 but this generation is getting closer and closer to writing a new page in the country's football history. In recent years, only Spain has reached more finals. They made it to the 2008 UEFA Euro Final, the 2010 World Cup Final, and the 2012 UEFA Euro Final. The only major tournament they played without going all the way to the finish line was the 2009 Confederations Cup. If Argentina can beat the USMNT on Tuesday night, they'll repeat the same feat France accomplished 15 years ago, when they reached -and won- the 1998 World Cup, the 2000 UEFA Euro and the 2001 Confederations Cup. Argentine fans will be hoping to be third time lucky after enduring heartbreaks in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2015 Copa America finals.

Mascherano has played in every major tournament for Argentina since 2004. Will he be on the winning side this time?

Messi stealing the goal scoring show? Think again!

Surely Messi's presence has stolen the show for La Albiceleste with just 210 minutes of playing time, but he's not the only player the USMNT have to beware of. Argentina has displayed a variety of weapons throughout the tournament. Although "La Pulga" is still in the hunt to win the Golden Boot, there are eight other players that have made their presence felt in the goal scoring department.

Gonzalo Higuaín and Erik Lamela have scored two goals each, while Ezequiel Lavezzi, "Kun" Agüero, Nicolás Otamendi, Ever Banega, Angel Di María and even often-sub Victor Cuesta have sent the ball into the back of the net once. So, if Messi isn't around to score, the USMNT may have their hands full defending the rest of Argentina's more-than-capable offensive unit.

Here's a token of Argentina's wide variety of options up front.

Di María: Argentina's secret weapon?

The finals of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa América had something in common regarding Argentina: Angel Di Maria's absence. Whether it was due to injury or a ban, the winger wasn't available to play the last games of each competition, which ended up hurting La Albiceleste's chances. This time, "El Fideo" will be available, providing the competitive edge Argentina lacked in the later stages of the tournaments they finished as runners up.

Di María has been absent since Argentina's second game of the tournament, but coach Gerardo Martino has declared him fit to play. Usually, fans and experts refer to him as Messi's most trusted team-mate, and if they can finally team up during the semis and an eventual final, Argentina's chances of success will increase dramatically.

"El Fideo" has only played 120 minutes for Argentina in this competition, but he was involved in all of the team's goals up to that point (one goal, two assists)


Argentina's Copa América experience: The real game changer?

Yes, La Albiceleste's recent performances in any major tournament have ended in failure. But only those who fall know how to pick themselves up. Since the 2004 edition, Argentina has reached the semi-final stage of four different Copa America competitions. Their only absence was in the 2011 edition, which felt like a dagger to their fans' hearts considering they were the hosts. During that 12-year period, La Albiceleste has never lost a semi-final match, and with players like Javier Mascherano (four semi-final appearances) and Lionel Messi (three semi-final appearances), Argentina certainly has the talent and experience to make it to the final.

Will this be the Argentine generation that will put an end to their silverware drought?

It's only a matter of hours before we get to know which team makes it to the final. With these stats, the odds are against the USMNT but the pressure is on Argentina. Can they live up to the "favorite team" tag? We'll just have to wait and see.

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