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Higuain, Messi, Vargas star as Argentina and Chile make Copa semis

The semi-finals for Copa America Centenario have been set following Saturday's quarter-final fixtures.

Argentina cruised past Venezuela 4-1 at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to progress to the last four of the tournament where they will meet hosts USA in Houston on Tuesday.

Napoli star Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring for La Albiceleste in the 8th minute with a top quality first-time finish on the half-volley from a delightful Lionel Messi ball before adding a second goal 20 minutes later when pouncing on a horror back-pass and rounding Daniel Hernandez to slot home with consummate ease.

Barcelona maestro Messi made it 3-0 on the hour-mark after exchanging passes with Nicolas Gaitan and finishing expertly from just outside the six-yard box for his fourth goal of the competition.

Venezuela pulled one back 10 minutes later through West Bromwich Albion's Salomon Rondon who rose above his marker to head home Alejandro Guerra's cross from the left but their revival was quickly put to bed a minute after by Tottenham winger Erik Lamela who swept Messi's pass beyond Hernandez.

The victory sees the world's number one side through to the semi-finals for the second straight year as they strive to exact revenge on the 2015 defeat to Chile.

There is the possibility of a rematch of that final as reigning champions Chile have also progress to the semis by virtue of a 7-0 hammering of Mexico at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

Eduardo Vargas was on fore for La Roja with four goals and a Man of the Match performance to send his nation to a semi-final showdown with Colombia.

Edson Puch kicked things off for the Chileans in the 18th minute with his first ever international goal before Hoffenheim's Vargas made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

Arsenal ace Alexis Sanchez added a third four minutes into the second half before Vargas went on a rampage, scoring three times in 22 minutes, to take the scoreline to 6-0 prior to Puch's second which wrapped up the demolition job.

Vargas now leads the scoring charts at Copa 2016 with six goals as Chile look to follow up last year's title by getting past the Colombians before meeting the winner of USA v Argentina in the final at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on June 26.

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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