Copa America 2024: Argentina beat Canada 2-0 to reach final, Messi scores

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Lionel Messi and Argentina are one win away from advancing on Spain, the only countries to win three straight major titles.

“It’s crazy what this team has done, what the Argentina national team is doing,” Messi said Tuesday night after his 109th international goal secured a 2-0 win over Canada that earned him a place in this weekend’s Copa America final. “For those who are still in the old guard, it’s more than impressive that the national team is back in the final.”

Julián Álvarez put the Albiceleste ahead in the 22nd minute, when he controlled a long pass from Rodrigo De Paul, touched the ball twice to get away from Moïse Bombito and slot the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau for his ninth international goal.

Messi diverted Enzo Fernández’s shot after a poor save from Ismaël Koné from 4 yards out from Crépeau in the 51st minute for his first goal of the tournament. Messi has 28 goals in his last 25 games for Argentina and 14 in the Copa America, three shy of the record. He has scored against 38 different countries.

“I wasn’t sure if Enzo’s ball would go in,” Messi said. “It was a reflex.”

Only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, with 130 goals, has scored more international goals than Messi, who turned 37 on June 24. Iran’s Ali Daei had 108 or 109 from 1993 to 2006, although there is still dispute as to whether a goal against Ecuador in 2000 was in a full international match.

With a win on their Independence Day, Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches. The Albiceleste will be aiming for a record 16th Copa title when they face Uruguay or Colombia in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday.

“We have to enjoy every moment of what we are experiencing,” Messi said. “I am aware that these are the last battles.”

Argentina is aiming to string together Copa America titles ahead of the 2022 World Cup, hoping to emulate Spain’s success by winning the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup.

“These are statistics. I don’t really care,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said through an interpreter. “The important thing is to win.”

Messi was making his 38th Copa America appearance, but missed Argentina’s group stage final with a leg injury. He played 90 minutes in the match. quarter final victory over EcuadorHe was much more agile and shot just wide in the 12th and 44th minutes.

Messi had 45 touches on the ball and a success rate of 79%.

“They make us pay for small details,” Crépeau said.

MetLife’s temporary turf looked rough, with splashing water and sand billowing up from the drippings.

“It was a very difficult Copa America,” Messi said, “very competitive, bad surface, extreme heat.”

Argentine fans gathered in Times Square the night before the game and filled the streets of Manhattan before heading to MetLife Stadium. The crowd of 80,102 on a night with a temperature of 82 degrees and 82 percent humidity was overwhelmingly pro-Argentina, with only a few sections dominated by red-clad Canadian supporters.

It was one of the biggest games for Canadian soccer, which went 0-6 in its only World Cup appearances in 1986 and 2022 and won its only major title at the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Argentina had defeated Canada 2-0 in the tournament opener on June 20th.

“The tournament caught up with us a little bit,” Canada coach Jesse Marsch said. “There was heat, there was travel, there were a lot of challenges. … We’re still at the beginning of our process, right? Argentina has maybe eight years together, seven years together with this team, and so we need to develop more players who can contribute so that we can also rotate in tournaments, because eventually the physicality and the fatigue can catch up with you.”

Canadian star Alphonso Davies was sent off in the 71st minute after his right leg was hit by a foul from Gonzalo Montiel.

“He’s having an X-ray so we hope he’s OK but we don’t know for sure,” Marsch said.

Canada had two shots on goal: Jonathan David was denied from close range by Emiliano Martínez in first-half injury time, and Martínez saved a kick from Tani Oluwaseyi in the 89th minute.

“We got sloppy. We started to deviate from the game plan,” said defender Derek Cornelius, who swapped shirts with Messi.

While Messi referred to “final battles,” Scaloni and fans are hopeful that Argentina and Messi will return to MetLife for the 2026 World Cup finals.

“We will never be the ones to close the door,” Scaloni said. “He can stay with our team as long as he wants.”

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AP Copa America coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/copa-america

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