Copa America: Gonzalo Higuain steals Messi's thunder
Vina del Mar: Gonzalo Higuain fired the only goal as Argentina marked Lionel Messi's 100th appearance with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Jamaica to reach the Copa America quarter-finals as group winners on Saturday.
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scoring against Jamaica during their Copa America match in Vina del Mar on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Napoli striker Higuain, reportedly a transfer target for English giants Manchester United and Arsenal, struck in the 11th minute to ensure Argentina finished on top of Group B ahead of Paraguay and Uruguay.
But it was another patchy performance from the 2014 World Cup finalists, who made desperately hard work of breaking down a side ranked 65th in the world.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino blamed weariness. "The first half was okay. We played fine and we scored quickly and created five or six chances to score," Martino said. "At the end though it was a bit tedious but we did what was necessary. Physically we struggled a bit in the second half."
Argentina will now have nearly a week's rest before the quarter-final, which will be against either Ecuador or the third-placed team in Group C.
"There are things to fix," he said. "We've got six days' rest now before the quarter-finals and I think we need them. "We've had three matches in a week so it's been a tough schedule."
The build-up to the match in Vina del Mar had been dominated by Messi, who took to the field wearing boots emblazoned with '100' as he brought up a century of caps. After a one-sided opening spell it looked as if the South American giants were ready to lay on a goal feast to mark their captain's milestone.
But Jamaica, whose players are drawn mostly from Major League Soccer and the lower leagues of English football, proved surprisingly resilient, with goalkeeper Dwayne Miller producing some fine saves.