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Jun 20, 2024 10:22 pm

Argentina pulls away from Canada in Copa America opener

Argentina, Canada messi

Lionel Messi bounced back from an injury scare to set up the final of two second-half goals as Argentina opened defense of its Copa America title with a 2-0 victory over Canada in Group A action at Atlanta on Thursday.

Julian Alvarez scored in the 49th minute and Lautaro Martinez added insurance in the 88th on a through ball by Messi, who moments earlier was tended to briefly after a tackle by Moise Bombito appeared to injure his left knee.

Messi said postmatch on Fox television, via a translator, “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew that Canada was going to be a hard team to go against.”

“They were physical, very physical. In the first half, there was little space. It was intense, physically intense and strong and then in the second half we were able to progress and get better.

“We had to be patient to retain possession of the ball and it was hard to find the open spaces. Rivals play differently against us.”

Messi, who turns 37 on Monday, set a Copa America record in his seventh tournament with his 35th match — breaking the mark of 34 by Chilean goalkeeper Sergio Livingstone between 1942 and 1953.

Messi had an amazing sequence but did not score in the 65th minute when he went one-on-one with backpedaling Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who made the initial save. Messi got the rebound and went right, then cut back, only to have his second attempt headed away by defender Derek Cornelius.

Crepeau made six saves.

In the 80th minute, Messi had another opportunity but chipped a shot over the keeper, only to have the ball roll just outside the left post.

After being outplayed through 45 minutes, Argentina finally found the breakthrough when Messi’s pass sent Alexis Mac Allister into box, where the midfielder collided with the onrushing Crepeau.

The ball squirted free for Alvarez to poke it into the open net to snap the Manchester City player’s 13-match international goal drought since he found the net twice in the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup against Croatia.

Canada gave Argentina fits in the first half and nearly took the lead just before the break when Cyle Larin sent a cross into the box, where Stephen Eustaquio’s header was saved by Emiliano Martinez with his right leg. Alphonso Davies sailed his follow-up try over the bar.

Martinez said postmatch on FOX, in English, “We want more. We’re not satisfied here. We go game by game and we can go all the way.”

On Tuesday, Argentina plays Chile in East Rutherford, N.J., while Canada goes to Kansas City, Kan., to face Peru. Chile and Peru play their opening Group A match on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

–Field Level Media

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