Going up against Argentina is no easy task for any team. Currently topping the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, La Albiceleste have been at the forefront of international football for some time, despite enduring some heartbreaking defeats including an extra-time loss against Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final™ and succumbing to Chile on penalties at the 2015 Copa America.

At the Copa America Centenario tournament taking place in USA, Argentina have been in superb form, winning their first four matches and scoring 14 goals along the way while only conceding twice. On Tuesday, captain Lionel Messi and Co will meet the tournament hosts in Houston with a spot in the final up for grabs. And although the Stars and Stripes have every reason to be wary of the Argentinian threat they are set to face, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side is buoyed by a recent surge of confidence, stemming from their own spell of success in the competition following their opening 2-0 defeat to Colombia.

"We are not scared of them at all," Klinsmann said in the build-up to the semi-final. It may not be on the forefront of the USA coach or players’ minds, but the Americans have had success against La Albiceleste in this tournament before, which will give the Stars and Stripes’ supporters an added boost of confidence going into Tuesday’s tussle.

Argentina overpowered
USA’s 3-0 victory over Argentina at the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay, which spurred Steve Sampson’s side to a semi-final run in the tournament, still stands out as one of the nation's most memorable moments in their footballing history. Frank Klopas opened the scoring for the Americans, and by half-time USA led 2-0 courtesy of Alexi Lalas’ charging run through the centre of the Argentinian defence to redirect Cobi Jones’ cross.

Instead of coming out for the final 45 minutes content to hang on to their lead, the United States continued to control the tempo of the match as Joe-Max Moore set-up Eric Wynalda for a tap-in to round out the scoring just before the hour mark. The win clinched Group C for the Americans, which forced Argentina, two-time defending Copa America champions, to face Brazil in the quarter-finals.

A Seleção subsequently dispatched La Albiceleste on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Rivera, while USA stayed in Paysandu to play Mexico. The Americans beat their CONCACAF rivals on penalties following a goalless draw, to send the Stars and Stripes into the Copa America semi-finals for the first time.

The result was considered a disgrace for Argentina for a number of reasons. Having won their first two games in the group, Daniel Passarella’s men believed victory over the Americans was a foregone conclusion. As a result, Passarella made nine changes to his squad, including the relocation of playmaking threat Marcelo Espina.

“(I felt) embarrassed,” Espina said when asked for his thoughts about the heavy defeat to the Americans. “I played as a left midfielder. Daniel (Passarella) decided to change almost all the starters, because we were already qualified for the quarter-finals.

“He played Marcelo Gallardo as a playmaker, so he played me on the left in the midfield, and I spent all the game watching the back of Cobi Jones. Well, not all the match because I was replaced at half-time. We were ashamed, that is the truth.

"We had a very bad game both collectively and individually, and the result reflected that. It was a big frustration…this was a chance we did not take advantage of. The worst part of that loss is that we had to face Brazil.”

Ambitious Americans
As the dejected Argentinians ruminated over their missed opportunity, the jubilant Americans used the victory as a spring board to make a statement to the international footballing community that they should be taken seriously.

“(Diego) Maradona was there in his box,” Klopas fondly remembered. “He came down afterwards to talk to us and he congratulated us on our victory. He said we deserved to win, and that was really nice. I’ll always remember that.”

Having Diego Maradona’s support is certainly remarkable, but coach Sampson viewed the victory as a turning point for the Americans: “To me, it really demonstrated the difference between the team that played in ‘94 and ’95 as it was a team playing to win, instead of playing not to lose.

"That subtle psychology change is what led to this landmark moment in US Soccer history, and I’ll forever be proud of that.”

And while USA have seen their share of ups and downs since that historic win against Argentina, the Americans have yet another chance to make their mark against La Albiceleste on Tuesday as they look to make history once more by reaching the Copa America final for the first time. As Sampson says, if Klinsmann’s troops approach the game in similar fashion – playing to win, instead of playing not to lose – then Gerardo Martino’s men could be in for a similar surprise their countrymen suffered 21 years ago.