Argentina secured a place in the Copa América semi-finals by defeating Ecuador 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 tie in Texas.

Lionel Messi missed Argentina’s first penalty, but goalkeeper Emi Martínez saved Ecuador’s first two attempts. Lisandro Martínez had put Argentina ahead 10 minutes before halftime, but Kevin Rodríguez equalized with a stunning header in stoppage time. Earlier, Ecuador’s captain Enner Valencia hit the post with a penalty following a handball by Rodrigo De Paul.

In the shootout, Messi’s Panenka attempt hit the crossbar. Emi Martínez, who had been pivotal in Argentina’s 2022 World Cup final shootout victory, saved the shots from Ángel Mena and Alan Minda. Julián Álvarez and Alexis Mac Allister scored, giving Argentina a 2-0 lead. Despite successful kicks from John Yeboah, Gonzalo Montiel, and Jordy Caicedo, Nicolas Otamendi clinched the win with the decisive penalty.

“I wasn’t ready to go home,” Martínez stated. “This team deserved to advance. They complicated us a lot. They played a great match, very physical. We knew they were one of the top rivals in Copa América.”

Otamendi replaced Lisandro Martínez, who had scored Argentina’s goal in the 35th minute with a header from Mac Allister’s flick on Messi’s corner kick.

Rodríguez leveled the score by heading in Yeboah’s cross. Jordy Caicedo then missed a crucial chance to score a dramatic winner in the seventh minute of added time.

“We faced the toughest opponent in the quarter-finals, and I think we performed well,” said Ecuador coach Félix Sánchez Bas through an interpreter. “We demonstrated that this team can compete with any opponent.”

Argentina will now face either Canada or Venezuela in the semi-final on Tuesday.