The Atletico Madrid star scored either side of half time to fire a dominant Albiceleste to victory, in turn assuring their place in the Copa America knock-out stages
Sergio Aguero was the Argentina hero on Monday evening, as his double helped dismiss the threat of Costa Rica and secure a 3-0 victory for Sergio Batista's under-pressure outfit, and in the process confirm their place in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America as Group A runners-up.
The Atletico Madrid forward turned in a rebound on the stroke of half-time, before adding to his tally in the second period as the hosts started to run rampant. Angel Di Maria put the result beyond doubt, while the Argentines were aided by two assists by Lionel Messi - looking infinitely more comfortable directing the side from a No. 10 position.
Playing for their Copa America lives in front of a capacity crowd in Cordoba, it was no surprise to see Argentina go straight for the throat against Ricardo La Volpe's men. Just seconds in, Gonzalo Higuain had a half-chance on the edge of the area, but could not convert.
That was to set the tone for a frustrating first 45 minutes, as the home team streamed forward in numbers without finding the target; Higuain and Sergio Aguero the worst culprits for squandering chances in front of goal. The Real Madrid man was played through perfectly by team mate Fernando Gago one-on-one with Leonel Moreira, but could only find the goalkeeper's legs after 20 minutes. Seconds later, a rejuvenated Messi missed by inches from a free-kick, before 'El Kun' whistled a long-shot just wide.
The Albiceleste dominance was almost total, and Costa Rica retracted into their own half; Joel Campbell the only man at times advanced as far as the centre-circle. Higuain however could not find the net for love nor money, his best chance blazed over the bar after a delightful through-ball from Messi, and after Aguero missed a couple of his own a draw at half-time looked inevitable.
In the last play before the break, however, Argentina finally found the net. Fernando Gago hit hard from distance, and when Moreira let the ball slip from his grasp Aguero was on hand to turn it in. The relief of the hosts as they found themselves in the lead for the first time in the tournament was palpable, matched by an explosion of noise from the stands after tension had been slowly building.
Argentina again started on the front-foot after the break, and Costa Rica started to show their physical side. Messi for one felt the full force of the Central Americans, staying down after being clattered by Oscar Duarte; the defender deservedly receiving a yellow card. Sergio Batista's side would not let the hits get to them, however, and just minutes in doubled the advantage.
Aguero hit home for his third of the competition after being fed through perfectly by 'La Pulga', and in doing so became the top scorer of the tournament so far. Argentina were now playing with verve and confidence, and the nerves of the first half appeared long gone. Higuain thought that he had finally found his scoring boots with a close-range volley, but the offside flag was already up to the disappointment of the No. 9.
The chances kept flowing, and it was Di Maria who put the game beyond doubt. The lanky wide-man had been quiet in the first half, but with 63 minutes he was the latest recipient of Messi's inch-perfect passing and smashed home past Moreira for the third.
The rest of the encounter was a stroll for Argentina, and the biggest ovation of the night was reserved for local boy-made-good Javier Pastore when he entered with 10 minutes left on the clock for Higuain. Di Maria was also withdrawn, Lucas Biglia entering in the middle to leave Messi further up the field.
'El Flaco' could not add a fourth to the tally though, and a 3-0 victory in Cordoba secures Argentina's passage into the last eight as runners-up in Group A to Colombia.
Costa Rica meanwhile will have to wait until the culmination of the other two groups to discover if their three points are enough to put them through as one of the best third-placed nation.