Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 in the quarter-finals on Sunday and advanced to the semi-finals of the 2021 Copa America, with goals from Rodrigo De Paul, Lautaro Martinez and Lionel Messi sealing the result.

De Paul opened the goal in the closing stages of the first half, a lead that was doubled in the 84th minute with Martinez net. With Argentina already in the lead, Messi compounded Ecuador’s problems by scoring in extra time.

“I’ve always said that individual prizes are secondary, we’re here for something else,” said Messi. “We have a goal and that’s what we’re concentrating on. It was a tough game, we know how tough an opponent can be. The important thing is that we’ve made another step forward.”

Before the game, all eyes were on Messi, who took two goals to equalize Pele’s record for the most goals in international football by a South American player, and his 76th goal for Argentina now makes him shy. Unbeaten in their last 17 games, Argentina could have secured the game by a much larger margin.

Martinez and German Pezzella came dangerously close to scoring in the first 20 minutes of the game, but Hernan Galindez parried an excellent save to deny Argentina an early lead. Messi himself had a clear scoring chance, but his shot hit the wood.

The shot on goal began five minutes before half-time when de Paul scored his first goal in 25 appearances when he took advantage of a stranded goalkeeper who had made a tackle. Messi set up the second goal that Martinez scored five minutes before stoppage time.

As the result neared the end, Messi hit the mark with a free kick to add even more misery to the opponent. To make matters worse for Ecuador, Piero Hincapie downed Angel Di Maria and saw a red card.