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Lautaro Martínez brace helps Argentina blank Peru 2-0

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Miami Gardens (US), June 30: Lautaro Martínez scored twice and Argentina, playing without the injured Lionel Messi, wrapped up Copa America group play with a 2-0 win over Peru.
A nicely placed through ball from Ángel Di María led to Martínez’s first goal in the 47th minute. Martínez was embraced by teammates afterward, then went to hug Messi, who was standing near Argentina’s bench.
“I went to hug Leo for everything he means to us,” Martínez said through an interpreter.
Martínez doubled Argentina’s lead in the 86th minute and now has a tournament-leading four goals.
“Every time I wear this shirt I enjoy it,” Martínez said.
“Many want to wear this shirt. I work to show the coach that I am ready to play when he needs me.”
Messi did not play as he nurses a leg injury suffered in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Chile on Tuesday that clinched a quarterfinal berth for the defending champions. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was also absent after being suspended because of his team’s late second-half return to the pitch in its previous two Copa matches.
Saturday, the Albiceleste walked out for the second half just a few seconds before Peru.
Argentina assistant Walter Samuel, who took Scaloni’s place, said after the match that Messi is still day to day.
“I talked to him, and he’s getting better,” Samuel said through an interpreter, “but it’s been just a couple of days and it’s too early to tell. We want to continue to listen to him and the doctors.” Playing with nine changes to its starting lineup, Argentina controlled possession (74%) for the third straight match and had six shots on goal, while being held scoreless in the first half for the third straight match.
The game was played in front of about 64,000 fans at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, which will also host the final on July 14. Most fans cheered for Argentina while wearing different versions of Messi’s No. 10 jersey.
Argentina will learn its knockout stage opponent when Group B finishes on Sunday. Group leader Venezuela plays Jamaica at Austin, Texas, and second-place Ecuador plays Mexico at Glendale, Arizona.
Argentina will face the runner-up of Group B on Thursday at Houston.
Nicolás Tagliafico appeared to score for Argentina in the 55th minute after tapping in the ball at the back post, but the officials ruled that goaltender Pedro Gallese, who made four saves, was blocked and the goal was disallowed.
Argentina had another chance when the team was awarded a penalty after a handball in the box by Jesús Castillo. But Leandro Paredes blasted the ball into the right post, and the score remained 1-0.
Argentina, aiming for a record 16th Copa America title, won all three of its matches in group play. Goaltender Emiliano Martínez did not allow a goal in the round and made six saves. Argentina hoisted the championship trophy in 2021 after beating Brazil 1-0 in the title game.
Peru was held without a goal Saturday for the third game of the tournament and has no goals in 11 of its last 14 matches. Peru played a scoreless draw against Chile in its Copa America opener, then lost 1-0 to Canada. The team reached the semifinals in 2021 before losing to Brazil.
“I believe that Peru’s performance today was the weakest of all three games,” Peru coach Jorge Fossati said through an interpreter. (AP)

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