FOXBORO, Mass. — Lionel Messi didn’t need much time to bring Gillette Stadium to its feet.
The Argentina captain assisted on Gonzalo Higuain’s eighth-minute goal in his team’s Copa America 2016 quarterfinal win over Venezuela on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Messi’s assist on Higuain’s goal came in Messi’s first start in four games at the tournament, and local soccer fans in attendance undoubtedly are happy they arrived in time to see the early fireworks.
Messi also added a goal in the second half and currently leads Copa America 2016 in goal scoring with three. The assist was his first of this year’s tournament, but he has provided more Copa America goals than any other player.
Higuain had taken six shots in three games before he finally scored his first goal in Copa America 2016.
Messi added another assist later in the game, setting up Erik Lamela’s 71st-minute goal.
Perhaps Messi’s links with Higuain and Lamela always were going to produce Saturday, as the game marked Messi’s first start in this year’s Copa America. He played 78 minutes in two substitute appearances during the group stage, as he was making a full recovery from a back injury he suffered on May 27 in a pre-tournament exhibition game against Honduras.
And it happened in Messi’s first-, and perhaps last-ever, appearance at Gillette Stadium. Argentina fans vastly outnumber Venezuela fans and neutrals in the large crowd. They loved Higuain’s goal.
Argentina defeated Venezuela 4-1.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jun 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) congratulates Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain (9) after he assisted on Higuain's goal against the Venezuela during the first half of quarter-final play in the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer tournament at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports