HOUSTON — Venezuela had a plan. It was a tactical approach, designed specifically to take Lionel Messi and the other dangerous Argentine attackers out of the game by applying forward pressure and forcing Argentina to make long, hopeful passes.
And it worked for about seven minutes.
But in the eighth minute, Messi conjured the kind of technical genius that compels most observers to call him the best soccer player in the world, artfully lifting a perfect pass about 15 yards in to Gonzalo Higuaín. With one striking touch, Higuaín converted it into a goal, the first in Argentina’s 4-1 victory over Venezuela on Saturday in a Copa América Centenario quarterfinal.
In that decisive moment, like so many others experienced by opponents hoping to stop Messi, all of Venezuela’s carefully conceived defensive tactics were laid to waste.
“They have that stroke of genius that changes all your schemes,” Venezuela Coach Rafael Dudamel said. “They…