Argentina start Copa America defence with win over Canada

Published June 22, 2024
LAUTARO Martinez (R) of Argentina scores during the Copa America Group A match against Canada at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.—AFP
LAUTARO Martinez (R) of Argentina scores during the Copa America Group A match against Canada at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.—AFP

ATLANTA: Defending Copa America champions Argentina beat Canada 2-0 in the opening match of the tournament in Atlanta on Thursday with forwards Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scoring second-half goals to seal the Group ‘A’ victory.

Alvarez broke the deadlock in the 49th minute with Martinez ensuring victory two minutes from time.

Backed by a huge support decked out in light blue and white striped shirts, Argentina fully deserved their victory but Canada, ranked 48th in the world, can take plenty of credit for the way they fought with the 15-time Copa America winners.

Lionel Messi marked his record 35th match in his seventh Copa America tournament, surpassing Chilean goalkeeper Sergio Livingstone’s record of 34 appearances between 1942 and 1953.

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

“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.”

While the Argentines were exploiting gaps in the Canadian defence, Jesse Marsch’s team were nonetheless competing in midfield and creating some half-chances for themselves.

Cyle Larin’s cross into the box found Stephen Eustaquio, whose header was saved by Emiliano Martinez. Alphonso Davies’ subsequent shot soared over the bar.

Argentina seized control in the second half after a challenging first 45 minutes. The breakthrough came when Messi’s pass led Alexis Mac Allister into the box.

The midfielder collided with oncoming Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, allowing the ball to slip free for Alvarez to end his 13-match international goal drought. Alvarez’s last goals came during the 2022 World Cup semi-finals against Croatia.

Within moments, there was another chance for Alvarez, but this time denied by the diving Crepeau and Canada could live to fight on.

Messi came close to finding the back of the net in the 65th minute but his shot was saved by Crepeau and his rebound effort was headed away by defender Derek Cornelius. He had another chance in the 80th minute but his shot rolled just wide.

Messi then set up substitute Martinez for Argentina’s second, Serie A’s top goalscorer squeezing his shot under Crepeau.

“We’ve been in that situation before in the World Cup and we know that we have to bounce back in the second game,” Canada’s Eustaquio told TSN.

Marsch was pleased with his team’s willingness to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best.

“We played fearlessly. I think we learnt a lot from it — mostly that we can play with these dudes,” he said.

In the group’s next set of fixtures on Tuesday, Argentina face Chile while Canada take on Peru.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024

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