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Copa América: Argentina defeats a combative Canada and successfully begins its title defense

With a stellar Messi, the world champions defeated the Canadian team 2-0 with goals from Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez.

Copa América: Argentina doblega a una combativa Canadá e inicia con éxito su defensa del título

Julián Álvarez, delantero argentino. (AFP)


With a decisive Lionel Messi in the second half and an imposing Cuti Romero at the back of the defense, the world champion Argentina successfully began the defense of its Copa America title with a 2-0 win over Canada in the opening match of the U.S. 2024 edition in Atlanta on Thursday.

Strikers Julian Alvarez, in the 49th minute, and Lautaro Martínez, in the 88th minute, scored the goals at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was in blue and white in front of a massive crowd of 70,564 spectators.

"We knew it was going to be like this. We knew what Canada was capable of. It was a match as we expected, very tough, very physical. In the first half, especially in the second half, there was little space. Luckily we found the goal quickly in the second half and were able to play a little better," Messi said after the victory.

The Albiceleste, continental champions in Brazil 2021 after defeating the hosts in the final at the Maracana, are seeking their 16th Copa América crown to become the team with the most titles in the history of the competition, an honor they currently share with Uruguay with 15 trophies each.

The first date of Group A will be completed on Friday with the Pacific Classic between Chile and Peru, to be played at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington (Texas, south-central) from 23H00 GMT.

"When we were able to execute our tactical plan, we made it very difficult for Argentina and we could have scored some goals and taken the lead," Canada coach Jesse Marsch lamented at a press conference. "We let this game slip away when we had certain things in control. Now we have to focus on Peru [Tuesday 25 in Kansas City], another really tough game, and we can't take anything for granted."

Sterile dominance in the first half

The team coached by Lionel Scaloni suffered too much in the first half, with Canada unexpectedly replicating an approach that brought back dark memories for the Argentine national team: that of Saudi Arabia at Qatar 2022.

On that occasion, Argentina, tempted by the Saudis' high line, abused direct play and deep throws instead of exploiting their characteristic game of possession and patience that had given Scaloni's team such good results. Something similar happened with Canada.

Although Di María had a one-on-one in the first few minutes, the match was played as Canada wanted, which exploited the left wing with Davies and had good chances to open the scoring in the first half despite not adding minutes to the possession clock.

As the engine in the Argentine midfield, Leandro Paredes was a determining point in explaining why Argentina could not impose itself in the first half. Although the Roma midfielder managed to connect great long passes to break the very fair and tidy Canadian lines, he could not lower the intense pace proposed by Canada practically all over the field, making Argentina fall into the traps set by coach Jesse Marsch in an entertaining match that became back and forth.

The second half of soccer reconciliation

Scaloni and his team, surely remembering the lesson of the debut in Qatar, managed to impose themselves in the second half based on short passing, patience and the characteristic Albiceleste functional game.

With Messi more refined, focused and precise, Argentina hit Canada quickly at the beginning of the second half.

It was Messi himself who, in the 49th minute, filtered the ball behind the defenders to set up Mac Allister, who had advanced his position compared to the first half. The ball was split in the penalty area after a collision between Crepeau and Julian Alvarez, Manchester City's striker, to take the rebound and score the 1-0.

The goal gave the world champions peace of mind and forced Canada to search impetuously for the equalizer, generating chances but also leaving plenty of space for Argentina's lethal counterattacks.

Messi himself had the second goal at his feet in the 64th minute after a long throw-in by 'Dibu' Martinez, who managed to keep another clean sheet. The Albiceleste captain beat Cornelius in speed, but the shot again found Crepeau well stopped. On the rebound, Leo spilled the goalkeeper with a devilish dribble, but Cornelius himself put his humanity to stop the 2-0.

Canada, who had several chances to tie the game with their striker David and several approaches well repelled by Martinez and the foreman Romero, was very exposed. Messi understood it in another burst of speed in the 79th minute and wasted another scoring chance when he rode alone on the right and punched the ball over Crepeau, with such bad luck that it went kissing the right post.

Incredibly, Messi, on the verge of his 37th birthday, was once again starring for his national team.

The Mercedes-Benz, maddened, wanted the goal of the 10. Still, Crepeau, who had lowered the curtain to the Argentine star, did not expect that he would then make them, as he did in the 88th minute, when he enabled Lautaro Martinez, substitute for Alvarez, for the captain of Inter Milan to score the final and definitive 2-0 of a debut that was more than up to the task.