Two goals from Sergio Aguero helped Argentina ease past Costa Rica to secure their place in the Copa America quarter-finals on Monday night. The Atletico Madrid striker opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time and doubled his side's advantage seven minutes after the interval before Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria sealed victory in the 63rd minute.
The result sent the hosts through to the last eight along with Group A winners Colombia, leaving Costa Rica having to wait to see if they will progress as one of the two best third-placed teams. Sergio Batista's side were in need of a win in order to keep their destiny in their own hands.
The Argentina coach made four changes to his starting line-up with Fernando Gago, Di Maria, Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain coming in for Ever Banega, Esteban Cambiasso, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Carlos Tevez. The Albicelestes had a number of opportunities in the early stages - most of which were created by Barcelona's Lionel Messi - but Di Maria, Higuain and Aguero were unable to capitalise.
Fans at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in Cordoba had to wait until the last minute of the first half for the deadlock to be broken. Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira failed to hold onto a Gago blast and Aguero made no mistake from a simple rebound.
Messi set up the second goal for Aguero soon after the break to give Argentina further breathing space. Messi had struggled to find his top form in his side's opening two draws in the competition but continued his influential role in this game by feeding Di Maria for a third goal just after the hour, the Real Madrid man supplying the left-footed finish.
Argentina could have extended their winning margin with five minutes remaining but Lavezzi's shot hit the post. Aguero was thrilled with his side's first win of the tournament. "We enjoy this a lot. We needed this," he told Channel 7. "We played very, very well. We scored the goal we had needed in the previous match, but the most important thing is that we played great football tonight."
Argentina do not know yet know who they will face in their quarter-final on Saturday, but Aguero believes the hosts should just focus on themselves. "We have to keep this form, no matter who the opponents are," he said. "We are better than any other team."
Coach Batista was delighted with Messi's two assists and general return to form. "Lionel was brilliant, like the rest of the team," he said. "I'm very happy with the attitude. We had a number of opportunities to score goals in the first half."