Argentina coach Tata Martino has warned his players to be careful when they take on the United States in the Copa America Centenario semifinal on Tuesday.
Martino's men ultimately breezed past Venezuela 4-1 in the quarterfinal at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, but were rattled before halftime as Rafael Dudamel's Vinotinto threatened to stage a comeback from 2-0 down, with Sergio Romero making a string of saves and even keeping out a penalty which was chipped tamely down the middle.
And while Martino was pleased with his side's performance in the first 30 minutes and throughout the second half, he believes Jurgen Klinsmann's team could make the tournament favorites pay.
"As I always say, any team that gets to this stage in a tournament, like the U.S., they get there because of their own merit," he told a press conference. "They had a very difficult group, and they even lost the first game, but they recovered.
"It’s true that for this game they have three suspended players but nevertheless the fact they have got this far and the fact that they are the home team means that they are a rival we have to be very careful with.
"They’re a top rival, and just like Venezuela they can complicate things for us. We have to try not to offer things up to them. We offered Venezuela a little window of opportunity."
The United States qualified for the final four on Thursday night, 48 hours before Argentina booked its place in Tuesday's clash in Houston.
But Martino insists he does not believe that the extra rest period will represent much of an issue.
"I don’t think we’re too worried about that," he added. We’re very focused on our goal. I don’t think that the rest time is a big deal."
Martino did admit, however, that there could be psychological factors at play, given his side has tasted defeat in two major finals in the last two years.
"If we beat the U.S. we will deal with what this means for the players and the coaches and the potential worry that something like what happened in the World Cup could happen again, but right now we have to take one game at a time," he said.
Martino also gave an update on Lionel Messi, who scored one and assisted another on the night to help his country into a semifinal meeting with the country that has so warmly received him in recent weeks.
Messi suffered a number of fouls against the occasionally overzealous Venezuelans, and should have been awarded a penalty in the first half, but Martino has backed his No. 10 to get on with the game and make the difference, as he did here.
"The only thing that left me a bit unhappy was the penalty that they didn’t give. He knows that these things happen, he knows he’s a game-changer and he knows that everybody is going to try to cancel him out, sometimes they’ll put two defenders against him but he knows when you play one against one, when to pass to teammates, and maybe there are times when he lets other players take advantage," Martino said.
"He played well on both wings, he played well in the centre, he scored a goal and made an assist. We are very happy with how he has recovered, this recovery has reenergised the team and we are very happy for that. We are happy to have him in shape for the semi-finals."