Argentina breezed past Paraguay to book their place in the final of Copa America 2015.
Paraguay had the first chance of the game as a long ball to Nelson Haedo Valdez was headed down to Roque Santa Cruz, but the former Malaga man shot wide with his volley.
Argentina’s opening effort came from a Pablo Zabaleta cross, finding Javier Pastore, but his shot was comfortable for Justo Villar to stop.
After 15 minutes La Albiceleste took the lead. Ángel Di María was fouled and the resulting free kick was whipping into the box by Lionel Messi, Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo took one touch to drag it down and then stabbed past Justo Villar in the Paraguayan goal.
They almost doubled their lead six minutes later. Messi lead a rapid Argentina counter attack before Justo Villar prevented Pastore at his near post.
Five minutes after that they did double their lead. Pastore was not to be denied this time as Messi once again picked him out, the PSG midfielder took a darting ball in his stride before tucking past Justo Villar.
Paraguay were forced into two changes in the opening half an hour, lessening the likelihood of Ramón Díaz being able to change the game through unenforced substitutions. Lucas Barrios and Raúl Bobadilla replaced Santa Cruz and Derlis González who both picked up injuries.
With two minutes remaining in the first half Paraguay pulled themselves back in the game. It was Barrios who struck for his side, waiting for a Bruno Valdez header to drop before thundering beyond Sergio Romero.
That pulled the curtain down on a thrilling first half in which Argentina gave themselves a platform to coast before taking their eye off the sea, allowing Paraguay to set up an intriguing second half.
Argentina regained their two goal lead as soon as the second half began, with Di María the finisher this time. A wonderful, flowing move saw Pastore slide the Manchester United man in on goal, unsurprising slotting the ball past a helpless Justo Villar.
The game appeared to be settled after just seven minutes of the second half. Messi ran and ran, obliterating the Paraguayan defence, he teed up Pastore whose shot was stopped, but the ball fell to Di María to tap home his second.
They looked to pile the misery on Paraguay in the final 25 minutes. Messi and Pastore linked up in style but Justo Villar was on hand to prevent a fifth – for now.
With 10 minutes remaining he was unable to deny the fifth again. The ball was worked out to Di María whose cross was perfection, picking out Sergio Agüero to nod home.
Moments later it was six. Despite slipping Messi was able to pick a pass to substitute Gonzalo Higuaín, who rifled into the far corner.
The referee decided to add little time to the 90 minutes, saving Paraguay any further embarrassment. They’ll face Peru in the third-place play-off while Argentina progress into the final where they shall play hosts Chile.
Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Otamendi, Rojo, Mascherano (Gago 77), Biglia, Pastore (Banega 73), Messi, Di María, Agüero (Higuaín 81)
Paraguay: Justo Villar, Valdez, Da Silva, Aguilar, Piris, Cáceres, Ortiz, González (Bobadilla 27), Benítez, Haedo Valdez (Romero 56), Santa Cruz (Barrios 30)
Booked: Rojo, Biglia, Cáceres, Da Silva, Ortiz
Goalscorers: Rojo, Pastore, Barrios, Di María x2, Agüero, Higuaín
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi. Three assists for the Barcelona magician, unstoppable in everything he did and hitting true form going into the biggest game of the competition.