CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 10: Roderick Miller #5 of Panama knocks the ball away from Nicolas Gaitan #20 of Argentina during a match in the 2016 Copa America Centenario at Soldier Field on June 10, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi has made his presence known in day 8 of Copa America

The triumphant return of Lionel Messi, some great free kick goals and a controversial handball call caps off what was match day eight in the Copa America.

1) Biggest Winner: Whoever Attended the Argentina/Panama Game in Person

Seriously, I mean what a performance by Lionel Messi and in such a short time frame as well. Whoever attended this game live will talk about Messi’s performance for a long time, they will tell their children about it, and they in turn will tell their children as it was truly a magical performance by la Pulga Atomica. Also, Argentina has basically clinched their way into the quarterfinals, but we already knew that even before Messi came in.

2) Standout Performer: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Easily the standout performer of this day. Coming into the game in the 61st minute, Lionel Messi didn’t need to do much against a Panama that was down to 10 men and down 1-0. However, in just 30 minutes of play Lionel Messi transcended even more into a legend as he scored not one, not two but THREE goals to become the joint leading scorer in Copa America play. He has only 30 minutes of time on the pitch and he’s already co-leading scorer. An amazing display by the Argentine as now Argentina looks even more dangerous as they have a Messi that has feasted on goals and is hungry for more.

3) Biggest Loser: Panama

Losing a player to injury is unfortunate. Panama lost Valentin Pimentel to a hyperextended knee. Losing a player to a red card is just silly. Anibal Godoy was sent off in the 31st minute because of two rather dumb yellow cards for aggressions on Argentine players, so he will indeed miss the next game for Panama. Losing three others because of yellow card accumulation? Just plain dumb. Yellow cards to Blas Perez, Felipe Baloy and Armando Cooper in the first half will see Panama now play their next game, which is a vital game for them if they have any hopes of advancing into the next round without any of the names mentioned above. Tough going for Panama.

4) Best Tweet: 

5) Biggest Surprise: Bolivia Medical Staff’s Lack of Concussion Protocol

This was a contender for “Worst Moment” as Bolivia’s Ronald Eguino took a hard kick to the side of the head and went down in a heap. Fans and players alike feared the worst as they all thought Eguino was KO’ed in that, but he was able to regain consciousness, which was a good sign. However, what followed was truly shocking. Instead of stretchering him off, they stood him up hoping he could continue on (as Bolivia was desperately trying to hold to a draw) before the officials made the Bolivian training staff stretcher him off. Not five minutes later, Eguino was able to make his way back into the pitch, surprisingly because no one who took a hit to the head that viciously should be able to pass concussion protocol that quickly. CONCACAF, CONMEBOL or FIFA really need to look at this incident because it is truly shocking that Eguino was passed along, or maybe he didn’t go through, the process the way he did.

6) Worst Moment: 

The worst moments came during the Argentina/Panama game when at first Valentin Pimentel had to be subbed out because he hyperextended his knee on a freak injury. And if that wasn’t enough, Argentina was hit with the injury bug as well when Angel Di Maria limped off after what seemed like an innocuous play, possibly with a muscular problem. It is always sad to see great players come out with injuries and the fact that two of them came out in the same game makes it even worse.

7) Best Goal:   

Was there any doubt? Jhasmani Campos with what surely is (as of right now) the goal of the tournament with this fantastic strike from the free kick. Golazo!

8) Extra Time:

Lionel Messi. That is all.

But in all seriousness, Argentina just got all the more terrifying as they now have a Messi that has smelled blood and is capable of destroying everything in sight. It will be interesting to see who will come out in second place in Group D, as Panama and Chile will play with the knockout stages in sight. Also, poor Bolivia to play so well and to score such a beautiful goal, only to be shafted by a controversial call in what was literally the last minute that gave Chile the win.

9) Saturday’s Games:

USMNT fans will be on edge tomorrow as the USMNT will look to advance into the quarterfinals of the Copa America as they take on Paraguay from Lincoln Financial Field in Philly at 7 p.m. ET, meanwhile at 9 p.m. from Houston, Texas, Colombia will look to clinch the first place spot in Group A as they take on Costa Rica.

About Josh Espinal

I am a multimedia journalism graduate from the University of Texas at El Paso. Soccer is more than a passion for me, it's basically life. Follow me on twitter at @joshbruv and see me tweet about soccer in almost every language imaginable.