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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

Messi creates one, misses two: Alvarez, Lautaro score as champions ward off Canada challenge

Argentina is seeking its third straight major title after winning the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup

AP/PTI Atlanta Published 22.06.24, 11:13 AM
Argentina captain Lionel Messi

Argentina captain Lionel Messi File image

Lionel Messi’s through ball led to Julian Alvarez’s goal in the 49th minute, then he assisted on Lautaro Martínez’s goal in the 88th as Argentina began the defence of their Copa America title with a 2-0 victory over Canada.

Argentina is seeking its third straight major title after winning the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup.

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“It’s been a long time since we’ve done this,” Messi said through a translator, “but we had patience to retain possession of the ball and it was hard to find the good open spaces.”

With South America’s championship moved to the United States for the second time, Messi set a Copa America record with his 35th match, one more than Chile’s Sergio Livingstone from 1941-53. Messi extended his own record with his 18th assist.

Messi, who turns 37 on Monday, created the first goal when following a throw-in, he headed a pass through the defence for Alexis Mac Allister.

The Liverpool midfielder side-footed a pass to Alvarez while crashing into an onrushing goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau about eight yards out. Alvarez had a virtually empty net and kicked the ball in over a sliding defender for his eighth goal in 32 international appearances.

Messi extended his Copa America record when he ran through the centre of the midfield and rolled a perfectly weighted pass to Martinez, who had entered in the 76th minute and slotted it past Crépeau for his 25th international goal.

Argentina had a 12-3 shots advantage in the second half and Messi failed to convert on a pair of excellent chances. Crepeau made a diving stop in the 65th minute and Messi’s attempt off the rebound was blocked by the head of defender Derek Cornelius. Messi put a chip wide after he came in alone on Crepeau in the 79th.

He was shaken up by a sliding tackle from defender Moïse Bombito in the 82nd minute, but remained in the game. “It was physically intense,” Messi said.

Argentina play Chile on Tuesday at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then closes the first round against Peru on June 29 at Miami Gardens, Florida. Canada face Peru on Tuesday at Kansas City, Kansas, and finish the group stage against Chile on June 29 at Orlando, Florida.

Slow starts did not prevent the Albiceleste from winning their previous two tournaments. Argentina opened the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia and began the 2021 Copa America with a 1-1 draw against Chile.

Canada made its Copa America debut and played its first competitive match under American coach Jesse Marsch, hired on May 13. The Canadians have not scored in three games under Marsch.

Grass was installed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after a Major League Soccer game on Saturday on the usual artificial turf.

“The pitch wasn’t great. It was very bumpy,” Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said. “It was hard for us. We normally — we like the pitch to be quite slippery and quick for our game, our style of the game.”

Argentina started eight players who began the 2022 World Cup final victory over France, inserting central defender Lisandro Martinez, left back Marcos Acuna and Leandro Paredes for Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico and Enzo Fernandez.

Emiliano Martínez was tested in the 43rd minute, when he used his left hand to bat away a bounced header by Stephen Eustaquio.

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