• Argentina beat Colombia in a penalty shootout in the semi-final Tuesday
  • Argentina will now take on Brazil in the final showdown 
  • It will be Messi's fifth final with Argentina

Lionel Messi heaped praise on goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez after Argentina defeated Colombia in a penalty shootout to qualify for the Copa America 2021 final Tuesday.

Martinez, who made his Argentina debut last month, saved three out of the five shots he faced in the shootout to become his country hero and earn special admiration from his skipper.

"We have Emi who is a phenomenon. We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play all the games and now we are going to the final," Messi said in a post-match interview Tuesday after his country's win in the semi-final, Goal reported.

Argentina's Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with teammates Nicolas Gonzalez (L) and Giovani Lo Celso
Argentina's Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with teammates Nicolas Gonzalez (L) and Giovani Lo Celso Getty Images | MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said the influence of Martinez, who plays in the Premier League, has extended far beyond penalty situations.

"We are very happy with Emiliano's performance, not only because of the penalties but also because of the security that he is transmitting. The group of defenders is permanently supported and we like that," Scaloni said about the Aston Villa keeper in a post-match interview.

The final will also bring Messi and Neymar, former teammates at FC Barcelona, face to face on the field. Both are yet to win the coveted Copa America trophy with their respective country. Brazil are the defending champions but Neymar was not a part of the side that won in 2019. He was forced to withdraw because of injury and was replaced by Willian.

Juventus star Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring in the match Tuesday after his goal was set up by Messi. A 61st-minute equalizer from Colombia's Luis Diaz forced a penalty shootout in the last-four match at the Estádio Nacional de Brasília.

Messi, who has netted four goals in the Copa America 2021, registered his fifth assist of the tournament in the semi-final against Colombia, which is his highest tally in a single edition of an international tournament (World Cup/Copa America), according to OptaJoao.

Argentina will now lock horns against hosts Brazil in the final showdown of the 2021 Copa America on Sunday. It will be Messi's fifth final with Argentina as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is yet to win a major trophy with his country.