Argentina book place in Copa América final after Messi scores in win over Canada

Argentina players huddle after Julian Alvarez's goal
Argentina players huddle after Julian Alvarez's goalAFP
Argentina secured their place at the Copa América final as the defending champions for the first time in 31 years after dispatching Canada 2-0 at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Both sides made it to the semi-final tie following successful penalty shootouts, with La Albiceleste defeating Ecuador and the Canucks edging Venezuela.

From the get-go, Argentina threatened to dominate the Canadians, who became only the third CONCACAF team to qualify for the last four in their debut Copa América appearance and the first in the region to make it this far since the USA in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the reigning world champions to inflict first blood, with Julian Alvarez fantastically finishing via a low drive after receiving the ball from Rodrigo de Paul, marking the first time the Canucks had conceded an opening-half strike in 10 competitive fixtures.

Having been outscored by a combined 7-1 margin in the final 45 minutes of their last six games, the alarm bells began ringing for the North American outfit.

Although Angel Di Maria came close to doubling Argentina’s lead with a volley with 10 minutes remaining in the first period, it was Canada who ended the half stronger, and agonisingly saw Jonathan David force Emiliano Martinez into a point-blank save on the brink of the interval, prompting an animated Jesse Marsch to lead his men back into the locker room.

Canada’s 2-0 defeat to Argentina in the tournament opener was the only time they lost to a CONMEBOL side in a continental tournament this century and their only defeat this tournament.

And just six minutes into the second half, the Canucks couldn’t help but fall behind by the same margin, as Lionel Messi claimed the final touch, redirecting Enzo Fernandez’s shot after a one-touch play initiated by the little magician went haywire inside the box.

Argentina’s second effectively neutralised any Canadian threat for the remainder of the final 30 minutes, as a morale-hit Canucks side became the 11th straight victim for the Albiceleste at the continental tournament despite giving their all in the final few minutes.

Messi’s 14th strike at Copa América proved more than sufficient for the Argentines, who also claimed a first semi-final clean sheet at the tournament since putting four past the United States of America without reply in 2016.

They will face either Uruguay or Colombia in the final, and are now unbeaten in normal time of a major tournament on US soil since Romania knocked them out of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

While the three-time world champions made it to their third consecutive final appearance at major tournaments, Canada exit the competition with their heads held high, having made it farther than most would have expected.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina)

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