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The USA vs. Argentina – Copa America Semi-Final Preview

Tuesday 21st June 2016
The NRG stadium in Houston, Texas, will be home to the Copa America Semi-Final.  Clint Dempsey and company have been sensational so far in the tournament, but come up against a powerhouse of world football in Argentina. Lionel Messi is back in the starting eleven and primed to become Argentina's highest goalscorer. Who will advance to the final?

The USA have certainly come a long way in the past few years since appointing former Germany head coach, Jürgen Klinsmann. In the 2014 world cup, the Americans navigated themselves out of the ‘group of death', an achievement in itself when considering the level of opposition included: eventual winners, Germany, Ronaldo and Portugal and arguably the best African team, Ghana. After a good performance in Brazil, the Stars and Stripes have risen up the FIFA World Rankings, reaching as high as fourteenth.

The US may have started badly in this tournament with a 2-0 loss to Colombia in the opening game of the tournament, but have since gone from strength to strength. The US dispatched of Costa Rica with a convincing 4-0 win and topped the group with a follow-up victory against Paraguay. This renewed faith and the belief that this American team is a serious threat and can win silverware. Jürgen Klinsmann has gone as far as to say that the US team can win the whole tournament, indicating that he thinks his team can beat the likes of Argentina and Chile.

Clint Dempsey has been one of America's key players and one of the best players in the tournament so far. The former Fulham striker has been the first goal-scorer in all three games that the US has scored in. As a result of the said goals, they have gone on to win each time Dempsey has scored. Despite not being the captain of the national side, he is still a leader on the pitch. His experience plays a vital role in the development of the future generations of US Soccer. His lead-by-example attitude was sorely missed as the Seattle Sounders played out a 2-0 loss without him as the MLS season resumed last night. Whilst at the age of thirty-three Dempsey still plays a chief role in US soccer.
The US national team have been here before. This semi-final takes place eleven months on from the United States' last appearance in a semi-final. They were playing in Jamaica in the Gold Cup. The expectation was for the USNMT to walk out as comfortable winners, although that never materialised as the Reggae Boyz recorded an illustrious win.

This time, however, the tables are turned as the US come in as the underdogs. It is arguable that the US favour playing the role of the dark horse, as they've attained a fair few results against opposition which are classically much bigger footballing nations. In 2010 there was the infamous 1-1 draw with England since then they've beaten Germany (twice) and most recently the Netherlands.

Argentina comfortably won their group with three victories, two clean sheets and just one goal conceded. When a team has the flexibility of playing Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín up front and potentially bringing on Sergio Agüero and Ezequiel Lavezzi from the bench, it's got a real depth of calibre.
Head coach of Argentina, Gerardo Martino surprised many football fans when he left Lionel Messi on the bench for the first three games of the tournament. In truth, however, Argentina have looked just as good without the best player in the world on the field. Martino later cited that he was saving/resting the Barcelona man for knock-out stages. Keeping to his word, he started Messi against Venezuela and he didn't disappoint. Messi wrapped up the victory for Argentina, at the time putting them 3-0 ahead. The game eventually ended 4-1 with a further goal from Erik Lamela.

Lionel Messi for all his club accolades and being proclaimed one of the best footballers, ever, has not yet won a single major accolade with his country. That said, with his goal against Venezuela, he equalled Gabriel Batistuta's record of fifty-four goals scored for Argentina. Considering Messi is still a very active player it seems a formality that he will surpass the record, potentially in this tournament.
Argentina, on the whole, has not won a major trophy for twenty-three years, a barren run since their 1993 Copa America triumph in Ecuador. It would be a criminal offence for this generation of players to not win a major championship with their proud and very passionate footballing country.

There're only been nine previous meetings between these two sides most of which have been non-competitive fixtures. The last fixture in an international tournament took place in the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. The US had a torrid time that day, losing 4-1. Since then the two sides have played in two friendly games which both ended in draws.
Highlights from the last game where the USA beat Argentina, back in 1999. Where Joe-Max Moore scored the winning goal.

Argentina rightfully enters the game as favourites, on paper, they have the best players in the tournament and are capable of beating every other team. The players themselves, the fans and the federation are almost at desperation point for a trophy, this is surely the tournament they finally restore some silverware to the Albiceleste national trophy cabinet. The US team are a great team outfit which enhances each other no end. Dempsey, of course, being their MVP. It's only fitting that the US will play their most testing game in recent history in Dempsey's home-state of Texas. Usually home to the Houston Texans, the NRG stadium will play host to the biggest game in US soccer's history to date.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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