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Gerardo Martino: Argentina 'need to be very careful' against U.S. in Copa semi

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said the United States is a team "we need to be very careful with" after his side advanced to the Copa America semifinals with a 4-1 win over Venezuela on Saturday.

Argentina will face the U.S. in Houston on Tuesday after Lionel Messi scored and added a pair of assists to lead the Albiceleste past their mistake-prone opponents.

The quarterfinal triumph follows group-stage wins against Chile, Panama and Boliviia, with Gerardo Martino's side looking very much like one that deserves to be listed at the top of FIFA's rankings.

The U.S. advanced despite losing to Colombia in the opening game of the tournament, before beating Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.

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Argentina have only lost to the U.S. twice and not since a 1999 friendly, but Martino warned Jurgen Klinsmann's team is not to be taken lightly.

"As I always say, any team that gets to this stage in a tournament, like the U.S., they deserve to be there," Martino said through a translator. "The U.S. had a really difficult road, they even started by losing, but they recovered really well.

"It's true that they have three players who won't be able to play because of yellow cards, but the fact that they got this far, and the fact that they are the home team, means they are a team we need to be very careful with."

The U.S. will have two extra days rest after their win over Ecuador on Thursday, but Martino wasn't bothered by any perceived advantage.

"I don't think we're too worried about that. We're very focused on our goal," Martino said. "This is not a big deal, the rest time."

Argentina controlled most of the game against Venezuela, but Martino was not happy with how his players nearly allowed their opponents back in the game in the final stages of the first half.

Argentina cruised past Venezuela to reach the Copa semifinals.
Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in the opening half-hour for Argentina.

Two Gonzalo Higuain goals had put Argentina ahead, but Sergio Romero was called upon to save a Salomon Rondon shot, before the Venezuela striker also struck the post. And only Luis Seijas' failed penalty attempt allowed Argentina to maintain their two-goal advantage into the break.

"The game I think, there were 15 minutes of the first half, the final 15, where we lost control, and probably the penalty was a decisive factor because to go back to half-time with only a 2-1 lead would have generated unease.

"We lost the ball and Romero saved a very important shot. But other than that, I thought we controlled most of the game."

Martino said he was wary of the same kind of lapse happening against the United States.

"They are a tough rival, and just like Venezuela did for 20 minutes, they can complicate our game," Martino said. "We have to not allow them this opportunity."

Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel said his players were punished nearly every time they gave away the ball.

"It's not what we were hoping for and not what we imagined, but we found ourselves facing a very good team, the world's No. 1 team," he said. "They were unforgiving with our mistakes. They take advantage and they kill you.

"We had a tactical approach. When you play against a team like this, we were trying to control them and force them to play long balls, make them uncomfortable. But they have that stroke of genius that forces you to change your plans.

"It was an incredible pass from Messi [to open the scoring]. When you concede that early, it's almost like a knockout, but we asked out players to play hard form the beginning and that's what we did."

But overall Dudamel was pleased with Venezuela's performance in a tournament that included wins over Jamaica and Uruguay and a draw with Mexico.

"The balance of the tournament is very positive. It allowed us to show how capable our players really are," he said.

Rick Metzroth is an editor at ESPN FC. He has monitored news coverage for ESPN.com and ESPNFC.com since 2010. Twitter: @MeetTheMetz.

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