Messi one shy of Pele as Argentina advance

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Lionel Messi has scored his 76th international goal to be just one short of Pele's South American record as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 to progress to the semi-finals of the Copa America.

Messi scored from a late free kick and earlier laid on two assists as Argentina subdued Ecuador in Goiania and kept the superstar's dream of winning his first major international title alive.

Argentina's rival at the Mane Garrincha Stadium on Tuesday will be Colombia, who earlier overcame Uruguay on penalties thanks to two penalty saves by goalkeeper David Ospina as he celebrated becoming his country's most capped player.

Hosts Brazil face Peru in the other semi-final, with the final scheduled for the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 10.

Rodrigo de Paul opened the scoring for Argentina in the 39th minute, tapping into an empty goal before Lautaro Martinez added the second in the 84th with a blast from close range. Messi, in his first match since his contract with Barcelona expired, assisted both of goals.

Ecuador lost defender Piero Hincapie to a red card near the end of the match after a foul on Di Maria that gave Argentina a free kick duly converted by Messi for his fourth goal of the tournament.

It left him one short of the 77 goals Pele scored for Brazil.

"Now we have to rest and think of Colombia," said Messi. "They defend well, they have quick counters."

Asked about his performance, he was brief: "Individual awards are secondary."

Earlier Ospina made his record 112th appearance for Colombia in Brasilia and was the hero after he saved spot kicks from Jose Maria Gimenez and Matias Vina.

Colombia converted their first four to progress 4-2 on penalties following a nervy encounter that finished 0-0 after 90 minutes.

Colombia have won this title only once back in 2001 and their coach Reinaldo Rueda paid tribute to goalkeeper Ospina.

"We knew David would be decisive and that we had to score to stay in the tournament," said Rueda.

"David has always been a leader. He's very cerebral when it comes to penalties. That's a big help to our team."

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