In Tuesday’s semi-final match at the Copa America, Paraguay were put to the sword by a clinical and deadly Argentina.
While he’ll have to concede the man of the match award to the brilliant Lionel Messi and his hat-trick of assists, Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore had a truly beautiful game in Argentina’s midfield, continuing his incredible resurgence. Much like the rest of his teammates, El Flaco began the night with a point to prove after last week’s goalless draw against Colombia. Argentina opened the scoring early and shortly after Marcos Rojo’s low finish, Pastore found his shooting boots.
Despite the lovely right-footed drive, Argentina took their foot off the gas and were punished by Lucas Barrios just a few minutes before the end of the half. The Albiceleste began to feel a sense of déjà vu, looking back to the late equalizer they conceded in the group stage against Paraguay; Barrios had punished them again, and they would be fools to throw away another 2-0 lead. Then came the deluge. Just two minutes into the second half, Pastore restored the two-goal lead, teeing up Angel Di Maria’s first goal with a beautiful through ball.
Flaco was at the center of it all again leading up to Argentina’s fourth. Messi instinctively found Pastore after creating space on the ball. He was closed down by Colombian defenders, but the ball fell to Di Maria who finished into an empty net. The Argentines had no intention of winding down, and the match ended just one goal shy of giving Brazil flashbacks to last July.
Ezequiel Lavezzi was again a no-show—he’s made just one substitute appearance in the competition—and Pastore departed late in the match for Ever Banega, a more defensive-minded player, though El Flaco remains a certain starter for the final.
The stats—2 key passes (second only to Messi’s five), a goal, and an assist—only tell part of the story. Pastore’s chemistry with the team is incredible, and his form hasn’t stuttered for a second since the end of the season. Barring any injury problems, Pastore continues to build on every performance. He’s showing he’s not just a flash in the Parisian pan. He’s quality wherever he goes and his linkups with Di Maria have convinced me that the winger wouldn’t be a terrible signing for PSG.
Should Argentina lift the Copa America on Saturday, Pastore will be adding a fifth trophy to his cabinet this year. His morale must be flying and frankly, so should ours. We love you, Flaco!