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Tuesday July 16, 2024

Messi, Alvarez shine as Argentina see off Canada to reach Copa America final

"The truth is that it's crazy what this group has done, what the Argentina national team has been doing," says Messi

By AFP
July 10, 2024
Argentina’s forward #10 Lionel Messi controls the ball during the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament semi-final football match between Argentina and Canada at MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 9, 2024. — AFP
Argentina’s forward #10 Lionel Messi controls the ball during the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament semi-final football match between Argentina and Canada at MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 9, 2024. — AFP

East Rutherford: Lionel Messi was on target as world champions Argentina turned on the style to beat Canada 2-0 on Tuesday and reach the Copa America final where they will look for a third straight major title.

The defending Copa champions will face the winners of Wednesday's semi-final between Uruguay and Colombia in what will be a highly anticipated final in Miami on Sunday.

The 15-times Copa champions produced their best display of the tournament in front of a capacity crowd at the 82,500 MetLife Stadium and as in their 2022 World Cup triumph they look to be peaking at the perfect moment.

"The truth is that it's crazy what this group has done, what the Argentina national team has been doing," Messi told TyC Sports after his first goal of the tournament.

"It's not easy for us to be in a final again, for us to compete again to be champions. I'm living it like I lived it in the last Copa America, in the last World Cup...These are the last battles and I'm enjoying them to the maximum," said the 37-year-old.

Canada, who surprised many by reaching the last four in their first Copa America appearance, can take great credit for their run in the tournament but Messi and company were simply a step too far.

"I think the tournament caught up with us a little bit," said Canada's American coach Marsch, who said he noticed that his players looked tired midway through the first half.

"Eventually the physicality and fatigue can catch up with you and that was a big part of what happened with us tonight," he added.

Marsch's side had progressed by hitting teams with high-energy football straight out of the gate but after an early opening for left-winger Jacob Shaffelburg, who fired wide after cutting in from the flank, the South Americans took control and never gave it up.

Angel Di Maria, the veteran wide-man playing in his final tournament for his country, was seeing plenty of the ball down the right and he offered an early warning of his threat when he picked out Messi with a ball inside which the forward flashed just wife of the post.

But it was Rodrigo De Paul who was to create the breakthrough in the 22nd minute, picking the ball up on the half-way line, taking a quick glance up and then lofting the ball over the top to Julian Alvarez.

The Manchester City forward, recalled to the starting line-up ahead of Lautaro Martinez, delivered a deft first touch that took him away from Moises Bombito and gave him just enough room to drive the ball home.

Classy triangle 

The classy triangle of Di Maria, Messi and De Paul, was a constant source of danger for Canada's back line and the former threatened a second with a chip from the right which floated over the bar.

The assuredness of Argentina's build-up play reflects the confidence of coach Lionel Scaloni's team, a well-drilled unit but one that never allows their organisational solidity dominate over their creativity.

Two minutes before the break, former Real Madrid winger Di Maria provided a slide-rule pass to Messi, who worked himself space for a shot on his right-foot, but he was narrowly wide of Max Crepeau's right-hand post.

Canada's American coach Marsch had plenty of work to do at the interval if he was to find a way of getting his team back on level terms and any strategy went out of the window when the world champions doubled their lead, just six minutes after the restart.

The excellent De Paul pulled the ball back from the byline to Enzo Fernandez and his side-foot shot was directed home by Messi in front of goal.

For a moment Canada had hope that Messi may have been offside but the VAR review showed that defender Derek Cornelius had played him onside.

The two-goal cushion established, Argentina were content to sit back and preserve their energy and invite the Canadians to take them on.

It was not until the final minutes though that Canada were able to trouble Emiliano Martinez with substitute Tani Oluwaseyi forcing the keeper into action after some sloppy defending.

But it was a comfortable victory for Scaloni's men and one which leaves them one win away from a record 16th Copa America triumph.