Next Up: Five Things to Know About Argentina

The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to take on Argentina in a Copa America Centenario semifinal on FS1 and Univision on Tuesday night. Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT. Here’s are five things to know about Argentina before the match:

Argentina vs. MNT

The United States have done better than most in their last two meetings against the current FIFA/Coca-Cola No. 1-ranked Argentina.. A pair of draws in 2008 and 2011 improved the Americans’ all-time record to 2-6-2.

Copa America in 1995 was the setting when the U.S. won for the first time in the series, stunning Argentina 3-0 to clinch first place in Group C on the way to the semifinals. In their next meeting, Kasey Keller saved a penalty kick before Joe Max-Moore scored a late goal for a 1-0 win in a friendly seen by more than 40,000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Argentina scored the lone goal in a 2003 friendly, and a 4-1 U.S. loss in Copa America 2007 was actually much closer than the score would indicate. Eddie Johnson scored to give a young American lineup an early lead, but Argentina eventually pulled away with three goals in the final 30 minutes.

Argentina Soccer History

Only Brazil can boast a more successful national team than Argentina on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. La Albiceleste have won two World Cups – in 1978 and 1986. While they have collected 14 Copa America championships, the last in 1993.

Some of the best to ever play the beautiful game have worn the sky blue and white, including Lionel Messi, who turns 29 on Friday. He’s still regarded by many as second in Argentina lore to Diego Maradona, another diminutive yet dazzling midfielder.

Maradona carried Argentina to a World Cup title in ’86, the kind of major championship that has eluded the country for more than 20 years. Still, a run to the 2014 World Cup final and the title match of Copa America 2015 prove Argentina is once again among the world’s best.

How They Got Here

Argentina cruised through group play as the only team to win all three matches, outscoring opponents 10-1. That dominance continued last Saturday with a 4-1 quarterfinal win against Venezuela in Foxborough, Mass.

Even injuries to two of its best attacking players couldn’t slow down Argentina, winners of all seven games it’s played in 2016. Messi missed the 2-1 win against Chile and didn’t start until the quarterfinals, while Angel Di Maria hasn’t seen the field since going down with an abductor injury in his team’s second game vs. Panama.

Messi’s Support

Everyone knows Messi, a five-time FIFA Ballon D’Or winner and the tournament’s leading scorer with four goals, including three in the last 25 minutes of a 5-0 shutout of Panama. But Argentina features plenty of other world-class players capable of standing out on their own.

Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuaín provides an excellent target for Messi’s brilliant passing, while his Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano offers support as one of the world’s best defensive midfielders. Manchester City’s Nicolás Otamendi leads the defense in front of Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Argentina still brings serious firepower off the bench with Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero, who finished second in the Premier League with 24 goals last season.  Tottenham’s Erik Lamela showed his scoring prowess as a sub with a goal in the win against Venezuela.

Argentina Culture

Spanish and Italian influences dominate a society once comprised of several different native ethnic groups, including those under the great Incan Empire. Those indigenous languages haven’t entirely disappeared, though Italian, English, French and German are more likely to be heard along with the official language of Spanish.

The world’s eight-largest country features a variety of climates and geography, including jungles, mountains and stunning beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. A similarly diverse culture of arts and music counts tango among its most well-known exports.