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Copa America: Argentina Reach Finals After Messi Breaks His Duck

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Argentina 2-0 Canada

Argentina’s Copa America title defence is well and alive, as they’re back in the finals. Lionel Scaloni’s men just defeated Canada 2-0 in the semi-finals at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night in what was another complete performance.

Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi were both on the scoresheet for Argentina, as they recorded one goal each to make it back to the Copa America 2024 highlights reel. But more than the goals, Argentina controlled the game through their midfield and backline, and Canada couldn’t do much about it.

Even with the loss, Canada can give themselves a pat on the back for making it this far (unlike their North American neighbours), not bad for Jesse Marsch, who was appointed for the head coaching job in May.

 

Highlights of the game

Just like in their first group stage game, Lionel Scaloni used a 4-4-2 formation against Canada, but he made a couple of changes in the starting XI.

Before Tuesday, Lautaro Martinez was the frontrunner for the Golden Boot race with four goals under his belt, but he was benched in favour of Julian Alvarez, who started alongside Lionel Messi up front, the same as in the first game.

Meanwhile, Enzo Fernandez replaced Leandro Paredes in the middle of the park, while Gonzalo Montiel and Nicolas Tagliafico were the starting full-backs instead of Nahuel Molina and Marcos Acuna.

Jesse Marsch also made changes for Canada, as he started Jacob Shaffelburg and Richie Laryea, replacing Liam Millar and Tajon Buchanan in their own 4-4-2 formation.

Argentina got the better of the opening exchanges, as Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez had their early chances, with the latter giving Maxime Crepeau an early test during the 15th minute.

Canada’s defence was under constant pressure as Argentina dominated possession, and La Albiceleste’s persistence paid off during the 22nd minute.

Rodrigo De Paul was left unmarked in midfield, so he had all the time to carve up Canada’s backline and make a beautiful pass to Julian Alvarez, who nutmegged Maxime Crepeau to score the first goal of the contest.

Canada head coach Jesse Marsch consoles his players after losing to Argentina in the 2024 Copa America semi-final match
Canada manager Jesse Marsch talks to the players after losing in the 2024 Copa America semi-final match against Argentina

Canada tried to answer right back three minutes later when Alphonso Davies swung the ball inside the box via a free-kick, but Emi Martinez snuffed out the danger by collecting the cross, no problem.

Lionel Messi almost scored his first goal of the tournament with his two chances late in the first half, but Maxime Crepeau was there to stop him on both occasions.

However, his breakthrough moment would come in the 51st minute, as Canada failed to clear its lines.

Enzo Fernandez took a shot from the edge of the box, and the ball took a touch off Messi before it went to the back of the net. Jesse Marsch and co. said that the Inter Miami star was offside, but the VAR showed that Derek Cornelius played Messi onside.

The Maple Leafs’ last best chance came on a late two-minute stretch, when Tani Oluwaseyi tested La Albiceleste’s backline.

After a loose pass at the back in the 89th minute, Oluwaseyi took the ball and shot it, but Emi Martinez was there for the save. The Minnesota United forward tried Martinez again via a header from Cyle Larin’s cross, but to no avail.

 

Key statistics

Last night marked Lionel Messi’s first Copa America goal since their 3-0 victory over Ecuador in the 2021 Copa America quarter-finals.

With 109 career international goals for Argentina, Messi surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei (108) in second place for scoring the most goals for his country, although he still has a long way to go to catch up with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (130).

Since becoming the No. 1 goalkeeper for Argentina, Emi Martinez has now made three consecutive finals.

Argentina have more trophies (3) than losses, as they’ve only lost twice in the last five years.

 

What’s next?

Argentina will be waiting for the winner between Uruguay and Colombia in the other semi-final bracket. Either way, La Albiceleste should be the overwhelming favourites based on the SBOTOP Copa America 2024 odds.

After the Copa America, Argentina are going to compete in the Paris Olympics, albeit via the U-23 team, with Julian Alvarez, Geronimo Rulli, and Nicolas Otamendi leading the way.

La Albiceleste are one of the prohibitive favourites to win the gold medal, especially with defending champions Brazil out of the way since they didn’t qualify.

As for Canada, they will be waiting for the loser between Uruguay and Colombia since they will take them on in the battle for third place, where they can win their first-ever medal in the Copa America.

   

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